Material Progress Helps the Environment

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John McCarthy

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Jan 8, 1995, 8:19:50 PM1/8/95
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Let me explain why I think The International Society for
Ecological Economics is on the wrong track and its efforts
are harmful to humanity.

1. Eventually humanity on earth has to reach a steady state
in population, energy use, and flow of materials. However,
this goal should be postponed for at least 50 to 100 years
for the following reasons.

2. Steady state will be facilitated by the whole world
reaching an advanced level of prosperity, perhaps
corresponding to that of the U.S.A. today or perhaps
somewhat higher. Prosperous people take more trouble with
the environment and look further into the future than poor
people. The same applies to prosperous nations vs. poor
nations.

3. There are enough resources, except for petroleum, for the
whole world to reach and maintain U.S. standards with a
population considerably larger than present world
population, say 15 billion. There are substitutes for
petroleum at a cost that will not damage our standard of
living provided technological progress is allowed to
continue.

4. The present all out development process in much of the
Third World is just right for reaching an appropriate level
of prosperity as quickly as possible and at a lower
population level than if the process is dragged out. The
process should be accelerated if possible and extended to
the remaining static countries. Its downside is that
replacing petroleum as a supplier of energy for
transportation will have to be undertaken sooner than if the
present advanced countries remained the main users. Also if
it turns out to be necessary to do something about CO2, this
will come sooner.

5. Cost-effective reductions in pollution and other
side-effects are welcome. Reducing CFC use by 90 percent or
even 99 percent would have been cost-effective. The total
ban is not cost-effective and will delay the achievement of
sustainable prosperity.

6. The organizations that prosper by promoting panic,
e.g. Greenpeace are delaying the achievement of sustainable
prosperity. The success of the American anti-nukes is
delaying it.

*****

These are the contentions. What about the evidence? I have
personally looked at the literature relating to many kinds
of sustainability. I see no unsolvable problems in mineral
resources, agricultural production including soil loss,
energy supply, pollution of many kinds, crowdedness
resulting from increased population.

Purely qualitative thinking about these problems can only be
suggestive rather than serve as a sufficient justification
for action. The mathematics required is mostly just the use
of arithmetic applied to statistics obtained from readily
available references, e.g. _The CRC Handbook of Chemistry
and Physics_, the _Encyclopedia Britannica_ and the
_Statistical Abstract of the United States_. Thus you can
only show that a shortage of copper is extremely unlikely if
you look up production and can say something about reserves
and resources. You cannot show that nuclear waste can be
sufficiently isolated unless you know how much there is and
how much radioactivity humanity experiences today. Neither
can you justify action based on the opposites of these
propositions without numerical computations.


Alas, I haven't written a book, but others have written books.

I have offered to discuss any two specific problems that
anyone wants to raise on sci.environment. Alas, the panic
mongers on sci.environment refuse "to fall into the trap" of
mentioning specific problems.

This document is on the www as:

Let me explain why I think The International Society for
Ecological Economics is on the wrong track and its efforts
are harmful to humanity.

1. Eventually humanity on earth has to reach a steady state
in population, energy use, and flow of materials. However,
this goal should be postponed for at least 50 to 100 years
for the following reasons.

2. Steady state will be facilitated by the whole world
reaching an advanced level of prosperity, perhaps
corresponding to that of the U.S.A. today or perhaps
somewhat higher. Prosperous people take more trouble with
the environment and look further into the future than poor
people. The same applies to prosperous nations vs. poor
nations.

3. There are enough resources, except for petroleum, for the
whole world to reach and maintain U.S. standards with a
population considerably larger than present world
population, say 15 billion. There are substitutes for
petroleum at a cost that will not damage our standard of
living provided technological progress is allowed to
continue.

4. The present all out development process in much of the
Third World is just right for reaching an appropriate level
of prosperity as quickly as possible and at a lower
population level than if the process is dragged out. The
process should be accelerated if possible and extended to
the remaining static countries. Its downside is that
replacing petroleum as a supplier of energy for
transportation will have to be undertaken sooner than if the
present advanced countries remained the main users. Also if
it turns out to be necessary to do something about CO2, this
will come sooner.

5. Cost-effective reductions in pollution and other
side-effects are welcome. Reducing CFC use by 90 percent or
even 99 percent would have been cost-effective. The total
ban is not cost-effective and will delay the achievement of
sustainable prosperity.

6. The organizations that prosper by promoting panic,
e.g. Greenpeace are delaying the achievement of sustainable
prosperity. The success of the American anti-nukes is
delaying it.

*****

These are the contentions. What about the evidence? I have
personally looked at the literature relating to many kinds
of sustainability. I see no unsolvable problems in mineral
resources, agricultural production including soil loss,
energy supply, pollution of many kinds, crowdedness
resulting from increased population.

Purely qualitative thinking about these problems can only be
suggestive rather than serve as a sufficient justification
for action. The mathematics required is mostly just the use
of arithmetic applied to statistics obtained from readily
available references, e.g. _The CRC Handbook of Chemistry
and Physics_, the _Encyclopedia Britannica_ and the
_Statistical Abstract of the United States_. Thus you can
only show that a shortage of copper is extremely unlikely if
you look up production and can say something about reserves
and resources. You cannot show that nuclear waste can be
sufficiently isolated unless you know how much there is and
how much radioactivity humanity experiences today. Neither
can you justify action based on the opposites of these
propositions without numerical computations.


Alas, I haven't written a book, but others have written books.

I have offered to discuss any two specific problems that
anyone wants to raise on sci.environment. Alas, the panic
mongers on sci.environment refuse "to fall into the trap" of
mentioning specific problems.

************************

This document is on www as

http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/politics/progress.faq

It will be revised into a proper FAQ.
--
John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
*
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

Jim Cook

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Jan 9, 1995, 12:43:48 AM1/9/95
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In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>,
j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) says:
>
>Let me explain why I think The International Society for
>Ecological Economics is on the wrong track and its efforts
>are harmful to humanity.

(SNIP)

Perhaps I missed something in the posted test, and the focus seemed
to be exclusively on people and their needs.

Perhaps the efforts of the International Society for Ecological
Economics are harmful to humanity. Actually, that would not be very
surprising, given their name. Presumably, they are arguing for
balance between the interests of people and those of other species.

Lon Levy

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Jan 10, 1995, 12:42:37 AM1/10/95
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In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>,

j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) said:
> Let me explain why I think The International Society for
> Ecological Economics is on the wrong track and its efforts
> are harmful to humanity.
>
> 1. Eventually humanity on earth has to reach a steady state
> in population, energy use, and flow of materials. However,
> this goal should be postponed for at least 50 to 100 years
> for the following reasons.

We disagree.

> 2. Steady state will be facilitated by the whole world
> reaching an advanced level of prosperity, perhaps
> corresponding to that of the U.S.A. today or perhaps
> somewhat higher. Prosperous people take more trouble with
> the environment and look further into the future than poor
> people. The same applies to prosperous nations vs. poor
> nations.

While it is certainly true that those in prosperity have fewer children and
are more concerned with the environment, it is not evident that our ecology
can withstand fifty to one hundred years of further growth. Nor does this
concern necessarily translate into adequate improvement in care of our world.
The United States is continuing to pave over and place buildings on some
three million acres each year, losing three million tons of topsoil to
urbanization and erosion. Not good enough for the growth you suggest.

> 3. There are enough resources, except for petroleum, for the
> whole world to reach and maintain U.S. standards with a
> population considerably larger than present world
> population, say 15 billion.

What of biodiversity? In our growth to close to triple the population of
people on this planet, will we be able to maintain all those plants and
animals upon which we depend and those upon which they depend? Living
resources are not rigid commodities which can withstand unlimited pressure
from human growth. Environmental degredation, which is in tight correlation
with population pressure, makes food supplies (already in decline now) very
dubious for fifteen billion people.

> There are substitutes for
> petroleum at a cost that will not damage our standard of
> living provided technological progress is allowed to
> continue.

Perhaps, if we were to survive all of the other problems which will come with
the growth you suggest.

> 4. The present all out development process in much of the
> Third World is just right for reaching an appropriate level
> of prosperity as quickly as possible and at a lower
> population level than if the process is dragged out.

So, having destroyed the temperate rain forests of North America we should now
encourage the destruction of the tropical rain forests? (This is part of the
path of the Third World). We can't afford the level of destruction we are
participating in right now, much less the expanded destruction you propose.

> The process should be accelerated if possible and extended to
> the remaining static countries. Its downside is that
> replacing petroleum as a supplier of energy for
> transportation will have to be undertaken sooner than if the
> present advanced countries remained the main users. Also if
> it turns out to be necessary to do something about CO2, this
> will come sooner.

The loss of petroleum is a symptom, not a problem in itself. We have
thousands of years of recorded history of man without petrol. However, the
real problem, that of our exponential growth overtaxing our finite resources
is exactly what you seek to exacerbate.

> 5. Cost-effective reductions in pollution and other
> side-effects are welcome. Reducing CFC use by 90 percent or
> even 99 percent would have been cost-effective. The total
> ban is not cost-effective and will delay the achievement of
> sustainable prosperity.

Perhaps, but that is quibbling over details while the big issue is continuing
to grow out of control.

Clearly we do not see eye to eye on this issue.

Regards,

Lon.

Loren Muldowney

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Jan 12, 1995, 8:27:50 AM1/12/95
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j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:

>Lon Levy tells us that food supplies are in decline. This is not so.
>The U.S. had the largest corn and soybean crops in history in 1994,
>and other countries are also doing well. World food production today
>is limited by demand rather than production capacity. Food prices are
>declining, forcing many small farmers out of business.

How is food production _per person_ doing? I have seen data which show
that it is the per capita figure which is actually in decline.

lm

William Connolley

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Jan 12, 1995, 9:03:03 AM1/12/95
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In article 95Jan8...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
> 1. Eventually humanity on earth has to reach a steady state
> in population, energy use, and flow of materials.
a) Why? It has never been so in the past. Other species don't come to steady state.
b) What does "steady state" mean? Over 10,000 years? 100? 1,000,000? If you said
"must stop the exponential growth in resource use" I'd agree (but only 'cos its
totally obvious).

>
> 2. Steady state will be facilitated by the whole world
> reaching an advanced level of prosperity,
Again, what makes you think this. If you correlate wealth against absolute-rate-of-increase-of-use-of-resources I think you would find that richer societies increase their resource use faster

> perhaps corresponding to that of the U.S.A. today or perhaps
> somewhat higher. Prosperous people take more trouble with
> the environment and look further into the future than poor
> people. The same applies to prosperous nations vs. poor
> nations.
Again, dubious. Prosperity=mobility=ability to run away from your mistakes and
depredations=increased likelyhood of unsustainable use of resources.
Perhaps (I am no biologist) there are animal analogs. Are highly mobile predators
(eg big birds) more likely to over predate locally and move on that less mobile
predators?

> 3. There are enough resources, except for petroleum, for the
> whole world to reach and maintain U.S. standards with a
> population considerably larger than present world
> population, say 15 billion.

You keep saying this and it keeps on not being true. The supply of air-not-overfull-of-CO2 is running out and with 15billion at US standard it wouldn't last 20 years.
-cut-



> Also if it turns out to be necessary to do something about CO2, this
> will come sooner.

If?



> 5. Cost-effective reductions in pollution and other
> side-effects are welcome. Reducing CFC use by 90 percent or
> even 99 percent would have been cost-effective. The total
> ban is not cost-effective and will delay the achievement of
> sustainable prosperity.

I agree

> 6. The organizations that prosper by promoting panic,
> e.g. Greenpeace

How about some others? eg Good 'ol Rush L?

> Purely qualitative thinking about these problems can only be
> suggestive rather than serve as a sufficient justification
> for action. The mathematics required is mostly just the use
> of arithmetic applied to statistics obtained from readily
> available references

Not really. There is currently an (unresolved) debate about how to reduce various environmental costs to numbers to stuff into the maths.

William M Connolley (3D) w...@bas.ac.uk or u_...@vc.nbs.ac.uk
WWW: ftp://bssiaa.nbs.ac.uk/pub/wmc/html/WMC.html Phone: (0223) 251479
-- "Standing tall in the dark" --


Tom Moore

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Jan 13, 1995, 8:29:20 PM1/13/95
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In article <3f3aom$6...@gandalf.rutgers.edu>, los...@gandalf.rutgers.edu (Loren Muldowney) writes:

>How is food production _per person_ doing? I have seen data which show
>that it is the per capita figure which is actually in decline.

Wrong! The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported
last year that not only were the proportion of the world's population who were
undernourished going down, but the absolute number of such people were
declining.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thomas Moore |In democratic eyes government is not a blessing but|
Hoover Institution |a necessary evil. |
Stanford University | Alexis de Tocqueville |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John McCarthy

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Jan 17, 1995, 3:25:09 PM1/17/95
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I wish to applaud Ed Salmon having taken the trouble to do arithmetic
about how many trucks would be required to move topsoil at the rate it
is said to be lost today. I will argue with him later about the
numbers and ways of mitigating them, but this is the kind of argument
we need to have in order get clearer ideas of what population is
sustainable.

Ed Salmon

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Jan 17, 1995, 3:33:21 PM1/17/95
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In article <STEINN.95J...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk>, ste...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:

> It is not clear that the increase in
> greenhouse gases is relevant or even harmful, nor is it clear
> that the emissions are intrinsic either to the population level
> or the standard of living. Same goes for fossil fuels.

It is not clear that the degree to which greenhouse gases have increased SO FAR
is relevant or harmful, although the evidence is building. Greenhouse gas
levels are historically correlated with global temperature, which is
historically correlated with sea level. A significant rise in sea level would
dislocate a significant fraction of the world population, bury whole cities,
and flood needed farmland. Any climate model you choose will predict dramatic
climate changes in localities all over the world in response to changes in
global average temperature. Such local climate changes would force more mass
migrations and crop changes. We're talking about severe disruption of
civilizations all over the world. If they happen fast enough, the climate
changes could kill entire ecosystems that don't have time to migrate along with
the climatic regions to which they are adapted. It isn't entirely clear that
we've released enough greenhouse gases to cause this yet, but it is clear that
we cannot continue raising the levels of greenhouse gases indefinitely without
causing such disruption. In other words, our present behavior is not
sustainable.

> I counter assert that fresh water is not a limiting factor
> in principle up to a population of 15 billion.

Oh? Have you discovered some way to support civilization without fresh water?

> I also assert, for the purpose of debate, that topsoil
> will not be a global limiting factor for feeding 15 billion
> to current US nutritional levels.

Have you discovered some way to grow crops on a large scale without soil? If
not, feeding people requires topsoil. Topsoil is being lost at a net rate of
25 billion tons a year. Obviously this cannot continue indefinitely.
Therefore obviously it is not sustainable.

>For one thing, in
> your previous post, the Nile delta appears to be a
> firm counter to the assumptions in the argument you present.

How so?

> Genetic diversity is being lost, so what? It is not clear
> that this is particularly relevant to human population sustainability,
> same with deforestation - this would presumably stop when the
> population stabilises.

Genetic diversity is essential to the stability of natural ecosystems, and we
depend on natural ecosystems to maintain fertility of the soil, atmospheric
composition, eliminate pollutants, and regenerate resources. More directly, we
increasingly depend on natural genetic diversity to engineer the special crops
needed to feed the population.

Forests are essential because they inhibit erosion, help maintain atmospheric
composition, provide wood, and because they provide habitat for animals and
plants we need for food and medicine.

> We can use some resources for some time much faster than they are
> regenerated. Some resources we can use for a long time, because
> there is a lot of them. Some are known to be substitutable when
> needed are used unsustainably now because it is convenient.

These are not adequate arguments. No matter how rich you are, it is unwise to
live off your capital if you care at all about your heirs. It is still unwise
to live off the portion of your capital that is in gold, even though you may
have another portion in silver that you can spend after the gold runs out. Of
course, it may be necessary to spend capital in the short run, but you need to
have a plan that allows you to live sustainably, off of wages and interest, in
the long term.

> Again I ask: what population and life style do you consider
> sustainable, and why? 10^0? 10^3? 10^6? 10^9? At what standard
> of living, and why?

No one knows enough to answer this question with any precision. The only thing
that is clear is that either the population or the standard of living or both
must decrease in order to make civilization sustainable with currently known
techniques.

> [Ed Salmon writes:]
> Technology may help us make our use of resources, energy, and land
> more efficient, but efficiency only increases logarithmically as
> theoretical limits are reached.
>
> ??? What on earth are you talking about? How do you consider
> efficiency increasing logarithmically? The above sentence seems
> pure nonsense.

There are fundamental thermodynamic limits to the efficiency of any process.
As we get nearer to those limits, improving efficiency becomes more and more
difficult.

Ed Salmon

Steinn Sigurdsson

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Jan 17, 1995, 12:09:12 PM1/17/95
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In article <STEINN.95J...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk>, ste...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:

> Logically, it is incumbent on the critics to disprove
> the claim, by providing an instance of some single or collective
> resource or sink that is not "sustainable" at the proposed rate.
> That should be easy enough for you to do?

Easy enough that I have already done it. The concentration of greenhouse gases

This surely is the issue in dispute.
You have _asserted_ a lot, evidently you have not
_proved_ much, at least not to the satisfaction of
some people.

in the atmosphere is increasing at an increasing rate. The amount of fresh
water in the world that is free enough of pollution to be useful continues to
decline. Aquifers like the Ogallala are being drained at least an order of
magnitude faster than they refill. Genetic diversity is being destroyed
rapidly. The Earth is being deforested. Agricultural topsoil is washing away
at an estimated 25 billion tons per year (NET). And of course, the supply of
fossil fuels is dwindling rapidly. The fact that all of these resources upon
which we depend are becoming scarcer and more polluted is equivalent to saying
that our use of them is unsustainable RIGHT NOW. We cannot go on using up
resources many times faster than they regenerate; our present combination of
population and way of life cannot be sustained.

Hmm. In quick order. For the purpose of debate:


It is not clear that the increase in
greenhouse gases is relevant or even harmful, nor is it clear
that the emissions are intrinsic either to the population level

or the standard of living. Same goes for fossil fuel use.


I counter assert that fresh water is not a limiting factor
in principle up to a population of 15 billion.

I also assert, for the purpose of debate, that topsoil
will not be a global limiting factor for feeding 15 billion

to current US nutritional levels. For one thing, in


your previous post, the Nile delta appears to be a
firm counter to the assumptions in the argument you present.

Genetic diversity is being lost, so what? It is not clear
that this is particularly relevant to human population sustainability,
same with deforestation - this would presumably stop when the
population stabilises.

We can use some resources for some time much faster than they are


regenerated. Some resources we can use for a long time, because
there is a lot of them. Some are known to be substitutable when
needed are used unsustainably now because it is convenient.

Again I ask: what population and life style do you consider


sustainable, and why? 10^0? 10^3? 10^6? 10^9? At what standard
of living, and why?

All of this is happening at the same time that the population, and therefore
the demand for goods, food, energy, and resources, continues to increase
rapidly. As increasing demands for food, resources, and energy force us to
clear, irrigate, and dig up more land, burn more fuels, and release more
pollutants. Technology may help us make our use of resources, energy, and land


more efficient, but efficiency only increases logarithmically as theoretical

??? What on earth are you talking about? How do you consider


efficiency increasing logarithmically? The above sentence seems
pure nonsense.

limits are reached. To suggest, as John McCarthy does, that 3 times the
present population and 15 times the present world GNP could be sustained within
50 or 100 years seems preposterous in the face of these examples. It is his
burden to show that all of these ecological limits could be met
(SIMULTANEOUSLY) at the same time that people's demands on them increase by a
factor of 15.

I personally consider the question open as to what population
is sustainable at what level of affluence. I suspect the true
value is somewhere between 10^9 and 10^10 at the US level of
prosperity with currently attainable technology. That leaves
the issue of what level of population is _desireable_, for
whatever reason, as a separate question.

Lon Levy

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Jan 18, 1995, 1:17:13 AM1/18/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>,
j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) said:
> Lon Levy tells us that food supplies are in decline. This is not so.
> The U.S. had the largest corn and soybean crops in history in 1994,
> and other countries are also doing well. World food production today
> is limited by demand rather than production capacity. Food prices are
> declining, forcing many small farmers out of business.

You have selected two specific crops and said that they are increasing. I can
select other food items, such as wheat and fish, and point out that they are
decreasing. According to a report last year by the World Resources Institute,
the total food production of the planet is decreasing. This is happening even
as population continues to increase. Demand is plentiful, though frequently
without currency.

Regards,

Lon.

Jay Hanson

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Jan 19, 1995, 11:11:45 AM1/19/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...
>
>I do not accept the claims of Worldwatch or International Society for
>Ecological Economics that there is a scientific consensus in support
>of their ideas. Worldwatch at least has been predicting doom for a
>very long time. I believe some of their doomsdays have passed along
>with Paul Ehrlich's doomsdays.


Dear John,

What would constitute "believable" information concerning human carrying
capacity? How does information become believable?

Jay

John McCarthy

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Jan 20, 1995, 12:56:06 AM1/20/95
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In article <3fm301$s...@lehua.ilhawaii.net> jha...@ilhawaii.net (Jay Hanson) writes:
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...
>
>I do not accept the claims of Worldwatch or International Society for
>Ecological Economics that there is a scientific consensus in support
>of their ideas. Worldwatch at least has been predicting doom for a
>very long time. I believe some of their doomsdays have passed along
>with Paul Ehrlich's doomsdays.

What would constitute "believable" information concerning human carrying
capacity? How does information become believable?

I assume you mean information asserting some specific limitation on
human population.

A fair question. It would need to be a peer reviewed book showing a
limitation on some necessary resource that went into details of
substitutivity or a reviewed study by the National Research Council or
similar agency. It would have to stand up to criticism for a few
years.

No such thing presently exists. The opposite doesn't exist either,
because the opposite would have to be a survey showing that no major
problems exist.

Dean Alaska

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Jan 20, 1995, 11:11:24 AM1/20/95
to
The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
important. Since this translates to a belief that people will succeed
in inventing or devising whatever they really need some time in the
future, these people could never be convinced that an approaching limit
is a problem. Whether we should even try to convince them is another
question. Religious faith tends to be hard to disprove with facts.

--
-- Dean Myerson
(de...@vexcel.com)

Robert Parson

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Jan 20, 1995, 3:11:02 PM1/20/95
to
In article <3fmhvn$2...@lehua.ilhawaii.net>,
Jay Hanson <jha...@ilhawaii.net> wrote:

>Dear Lon,
>
>Here's more evidence of decline:

[deletia]

>ON STRATOSPHERIC OZONE LOSS
>
> "Only a handful of studies have measured the effect on crops of
>increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation resulting from depletion of the
>stratospheric ozone layer. Results thus far obtained, however, have
>revealed a significant threat to food production. In a six-year
>study of the Essex soybean, economically the leading soybean in the
>U.S. mid-Atlantic states, yields fell 20-25 percent under increased
>UV radiation. Some varieties of soybeans may be less susceptible,
>and through breeding it might be possible to reduce the damage.
>Those changes, however, would require years of work and heave
>research investment merely to maintain yields.

One might infer from the above paragraph that these are actual
agricultural declines due to stratospheric ozone depletion. I am quite
sure that that is not the case. Rather, the paragraph describes the
results of _experiments_ carried out to investigate what _would_ happen
to soybean yields if large ozone depletion were to take place over
middle latitudes. These experiments (by Alan Teramura and others)
simulate the UV increases that would come from ~15-25% sustained ozone
depletion, something that is very unlikely to occur given the present
controls on CFC emissions which pretty much guarantee that stratospheric
chlorine will start coming down before the end of the decade.

> "Because different species vary in their response to UV
>radiation, ozone depletion can change species composition or the
>abundance, size, distribution, or nutritional value of primary
>producers. Studies between 1987 and 1991 found that the photosynthesis
>and production of phytoplankton have diminished by 6-12 percent in
>the water around Antarctica because of increased ultraviolet
>radiation, reducing the food available to fish and other higher
>species.

This is not accurate. What these studies showed was that the seasonal
ozone hole is associated with a 6-12% decrease in productivity in the
marginal ice zone during that season. That does not mean that the net
productivity has fallen by 6-12%.

------
Robert

Jay Hanson

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Jan 20, 1995, 9:08:42 PM1/20/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...
>
>In article <3fm301$s...@lehua.ilhawaii.net> jha...@ilhawaii.net (Jay Hanson) writes:
> In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...
> >
> >I do not accept the claims of Worldwatch or International Society for
> >Ecological Economics that there is a scientific consensus in support
> >of their ideas. Worldwatch at least has been predicting doom for a
> >very long time. I believe some of their doomsdays have passed along
> >with Paul Ehrlich's doomsdays.
>
> What would constitute "believable" information concerning human carrying
> capacity? How does information become believable?
>
>I assume you mean information asserting some specific limitation on
>human population.
>
>A fair question. It would need to be a peer reviewed book showing a
>limitation on some necessary resource that went into details of
>substitutivity or a reviewed study by the National Research Council or
>similar agency. It would have to stand up to criticism for a few
>years.
>
>No such thing presently exists. The opposite doesn't exist either,
>because the opposite would have to be a survey showing that no major
>problems exist.

Dear John,

You should have told us earlier that you can not be alerted in real-time
to human population issues. When confronted with this news of impending
doom, your first question should have been "how old is this news?" If
the news is less than "a few years" old, it is ipso facto "unbelievable."

We could have saved a lot of time.

Jay

--
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"When Leon the tyrant of Phlius asked Pythagoras who he was, he said,
'A Philosopher,' and he compared life to the public festivals, where some
went to compete for a prize and others went with things to sell, but the
best as observers; for similarly, in life, some grow up with servile
natures, greedy for fame and gain, but philosophers seek the truth."
Diogenes Laertius
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 20, 1995, 9:49:00 PM1/20/95
to
The particular experiments with soybeans that I recall having read
about looked for a sensitive variety. They found that it was
sensitive to even normal levels of UV-B and grew better if it was
under a shield opaque to UV-B and transparent to other light.

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 20, 1995, 9:50:24 PM1/20/95
to

We are willing to argue about particular resources. I will get around
to Ed Salmon's examples soon.

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 21, 1995, 5:13:20 PM1/21/95
to
Ed Salmon includes:

> I have suggested that topsoil will eventually become a commodity to be
> sold and trucked from where there is a lot to where there is a little.

At 25 billion tons of lost topsoil per year, and 40 tons per
truck, this would require over 600 million truck trips per
year. The annual world production of commercial vehicles,
most of which are much smaller than a 40-ton semi-truck, is
less than 13 million per year. If we generously assume a
constant production of 5 million 40-ton trucks per year and
a useful life of 20 years for each truck, we have a fleet of
100 million trucks. If we make the further generous
assumption that each soil-hauling trip takes two days, a
third of our world truck fleet would have to be hauling soil
on any given day. Doesn't sound very feasible to me. Even
if you could do it, you would only have made our use of soil
more sustainable by making air pollution by the trucks less
sustainable. That's not to mention the petroleum (if you
don't use it as a fuel, you still have to make the truck
tires out of it) and all the other resources required to
build and mainatin the trucks. Again, you have to show that
you can make usage of all the major resources sustainable
simultaneously.

At $400 per day for a truck and driver, that would come to $480
billion dollars per year. If we had a 15 billion population at
American standards the gross world product would be about $300
trillion, so moving topsoil would be an easily affordable cost. Even
at present world GNP, it is affordable. I'm betting, however, that
when topsoil becomes a commodity, much less will be lost.

All the resources required to build and maintain the trucks are
covered by the $400 per day cost. There would be further cost
reductions resulting from the large scale of the operation.

Salmon goes on to write:


Your ideas of using barges and of making topsoil by
mechanically processing poor soils would fail for the same
kind of reason. You need to recover soil much faster than
any of these methods could reasonably achieve. If you make
the Herculean effort to achieve it, you'll just strain other
resources like the energy required to run your machines and
the materials needed to build them. Global natural forces
like erosion are simply to powerful to try to play catch-up
with massive industrial recovery projects.

Salmon didn't do any arithmetic on this one, just appeals to a general
principle popular with ignorant anti-technological people.
We are still talking about the same topsoil being lost, so the
opportunity to use barges would reduce the costs.

He further applies his principles of frustration.


All of that is in addition to the response I already made to
your soil-hauling and -making proposals. Fertile topsoil is
not some inert, homogeneous, dead substance that can get
washed thousands of miles downstream, then picked up and
moved back upstream, laid down and be the same. It is a
living community of microorganisms, one that has a structure
and that requires years (if not decades) to mature. If you
farm a plot too intensively and let its soil degrade or wash
away, you can't bring in new load on your truck and
instantly regain the fertility you lost.

In fact, soil that has been washed down rivers and deposited at their
mouths is extremely fertile. The deltas of major rivers get new
topsoil every year. Volcanic ash becomes usable for crops a few years
after the eruption. That's why it is hard to get people to keep their
distance from volcanoes.

Salmon quotes me


> What is happening is that ways of reducing erosion and conserving
> topsoil have been found to be effective. For example, in Idaho
> experiments established that very small and economically affordable
> quantities of certain substances could cause soil to drop out of
> suspension in irrigation water and thus not be carried away.

What is this magic substance? How does it affect the
fertility of the soil? Seems hard to imagine that a
substance that makes a soil lose its affinity for water
would not damage fertility.

My delay in answering Salmon was caused by looking for the story I
read in _Science News_. Alas, I didn't find it. The substance had a
long chemical name and was indeed affordable in the quantities that
would be required. I presume the experiments included verifying that
the crops grew just as well when it was used.

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 21, 1995, 5:16:18 PM1/21/95
to
Hanson quotes another pronouncement of doom from Worldwatch. It ends
up with the statement

With losses of stratospheric ozone projected to continue
for several decades, even if chlorofluorocarbon
manufacturing is halted soon, the potential effects on food
production deserve far more monitoring and research."
[p.p. 152 154]

You can be sure that any money given to Worldwatch will *not* be spent
on actual research.

Bruce Hamilton

unread,
Jan 21, 1995, 7:14:20 PM1/21/95
to
In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>
de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:

>The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
>system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
>economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
>important.

Assumption - "the current system" is what I support.
That is too simple, I have faith in those around me, and those
who follow me, to identify and resolve resource problems.
The "current system" is just that, different from the past,
and different from the future...

>Since this translates to a belief that people will succeed
>in inventing or devising whatever they really need some time in the
>future, these people could never be convinced that an approaching limit
>is a problem.

Wrong. I believe there are many situations where a resource
limitation is a problem - every time I talk to my bank manger
he frequently points out my lack of resources :-). However I
have to much my lifestyle to the resources available to me,
and yet still try to leave resources for those who follow.

Humanity has done this for centuries, whether it's wandering
nomads, careful rice growers etc. Sure there are failures,
perhaps the most significant was the soil salination of the
Indus Valley civilizations. But there are also many successes,
such as the continual growing in China for millenia. There have
also always been Cassandras, but they have always been
outnumbered by the incorrect pessimists.

Humanity will use whatever resources it can to prosper,
however that doesn't equate to wilful annihilation of
resources. Crying that resources will run out, when it's
fairly obvious they won't, makes people suspicious of
claims of the imminent death of the next resource.
Fossil fuels, and some of the Club of Rome's claims
spring to mind...

> Whether we should even try to convince them is another
>question. Religious faith tends to be hard to disprove with facts.

A faith in those around, and those who follow, may well be
a religion, but like all religions, it has both good and bad features..
The ability to match consumption to the resource availability
and/or replenishment rate doesn't require faith, it makes sound
economic sense. Depleted resources cost more, and alternatives
appear. The trick is to not damage the resource so much that it
is no longer viable.

The problem is that human nature means somebody will utilise
a cheap, cost-effective resource if there are no immediate
disadvantages. If disadvantages become apparent, some will
cease - others will claim it's their right to continue, even in
face of sound scientific reasons.

Can anyone nominate a part of a whale that is needed for
human consumption?. There are economic altenatives to all
parts of whales, but would you include the pro-whalers as
representing the faithful?. They don't, we have developed
alternatives - the whales should keep swimming. The pro-whalers
are just another extreme religious sect, they don't represent
the mainstream, and others will now oppose them solely
because they are harvesting a sustainable resource that
is supposed to be left alone.

The recent "discovery" of the huge illicit CFC markets shows
that even when the technogreenies unite with the greenies,
human nature still prevails. However, the perturbation is only
small, and for a relatively short period. We have moved on
to alternatives - the market will die. But the prohibition era
clearly demonstrates the failure of trying to enforce a
resource limitation when the reality of a cheap resource, and
a large demand, still exists.

As for the above two examples, so it is with any resource, I'll
stop using it - if you also stop, thus meaning we are both equally
disadvantaged. Nature is not our biggest enemy, other humans are.

Bruce Hamilton

Jay Hanson

unread,
Jan 21, 1995, 2:28:24 PM1/21/95
to
In article <3fp5cm$c...@CUBoulder.Colorado.EDU>, rpa...@spot.Colorado.EDU says...

[snip

>>ON STRATOSPHERIC OZONE LOSS
>>
>> "Only a handful of studies have measured the effect on crops of
>>increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation resulting from depletion of the

[snip]


Robert.

I am not a scientist. Are you saying that we have nothing to worry
about? Could you tell us in plain language what we should do?

Jay


Jay Hanson

unread,
Jan 22, 1995, 11:31:43 AM1/22/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...

>
>The particular experiments with soybeans that I recall having read
>about looked for a sensitive variety. They found that it was
>sensitive to even normal levels of UV-B and grew better if it was
>under a shield opaque to UV-B and transparent to other light.

John,

Based upon this observation, would you recommend that we do all we can
to eliminate stratospheric ozone?

What are you trying to prove? What are your assumptions? What are your
values? These statements of yours that are taken out of context cannot
be evaluated.

Jay Hanson

unread,
Jan 22, 1995, 11:49:21 AM1/22/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...

>
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
> The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
> system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
> economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
> important. Since this translates to a belief that people will succeed
> in inventing or devising whatever they really need some time in the
> future, these people could never be convinced that an approaching limit
> is a problem. Whether we should even try to convince them is another
> question. Religious faith tends to be hard to disprove with facts.
>
>We are willing to argue about particular resources. I will get around
>to Ed Salmon's examples soon.

John,

Have you heard of "system analysis" or "ecology?" Systems analysis is for
engineers (me) what ecology is for biologists.

It is axiomatic that the properties of a system cannot be understood by
analyzing each component. In order to understand a system (e.g., eco-
system), one must consider the relationships of the components.

Let me give you an example. Suppose someone took the spark plugs out of
your car's engine and put them in the back seat. If you then took an
inventory of the parts, you would observe that nothing had changed. As far
as you could tell, the car should still function. In order to understand
why your car did not work, you would have to study the relationship of the
spark plugs to the rest of the engine.

In the context of "material progress" or "population" component analysis is
a very limited tool. One must look at the relationships in the entire
system.

Jay Hanson

unread,
Jan 22, 1995, 3:33:04 PM1/22/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...

>
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
[snip]

>
>We are willing to argue about particular resources. I will get around
>to Ed Salmon's examples soon.

Hey John,
How sustainable is this<G>?

=======================Electronic Edition========================

RACHEL'S HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS #372
---January 13, 1994---
HEADLINE:
PCBs DIMINISH PENIS SIZE
==========
Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403
Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet: e...@igc.apc.org
==========
Back issues available via anonymous ftp from
world.std.com/periodicals/rachel.
=================================================================

PCBS DIMINISH PENIS SIZE

Boys in Taiwan exposed to PCBs while in their mothers' womb
develop smaller penises as they mature, compared to normal boys
in Taiwan, according to a brief article this month in SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN.[1] PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of
industrial chemicals manufactured and released into the
environment in megaton quantities by Monsanto and its licensees
between 1929 and 1976.[2]

The finding of small penises among PCB-exposed human males tends
to confirm that humans and wildlife are affected similarly by
exposure to "endocrine-disrupting chemicals" such as PCBs,
dioxin, DDT, and dozens of others. (See RHWN #249, #263, #264,
#323, #327, #334, #337, #364, #365.) The endocrine system, in
wildlife and humans, is a complex set of bodily organs and
tissues whose activities are coordinated by chemical messengers,
called hormones, that control growth, development and behavior.
In recent years, evidence has accumulated that several dozen
pesticides and other industrial chemicals mimic, or interfere
with, hormones and thus disrupt the endrocine system. In both
wildlife and humans, it is the reproductive system that seems
most prone to disruption by hormone-like industrial pollutants.

SCIENCE NEWS reported this month that male alligators exposed to
pesticides in Florida are having difficulty reproducing, partly
because their penises are not developing to normal size.[3]
SCIENCE NEWS presented evidence from several sources that males
of many wildlife species (birds, fish, amphibians, and mammals)
are being "feminized" by exposure to low levels of pesticides and
other industrial chemicals that have been released into the
environment in huge quantities since World War II.

The boys in Taiwan were born to mothers who unwittingly consumed
PCB-contaminated rice oil during a 10-month period in 1979. As
many as 2000 people consumed the contaminated oil. The children
consumed no contaminated oil themselves; they were exposed before
birth to PCBs that were carried by their mothers' blood and
crossed the placenta; they may have also been exposed shortly
after birth by drinking their mothers' milk. The rice oil
contained 100 parts per million (ppm) PCBs and 0.1 ppm PCDFs
[polychlorinated dibenzofurans, a potent dioxin-like poison].[4]
A new mother in the U.S. today has an average of one ppm PCBs in
her breast milk.

The children in Taiwan have been observed medically for many
years. They are known as the "yucheng" (or "oil disease")
children. A similar PCB contamination event ("yusho") occurred
in Japan in 1968.

When 115 yucheng children were examined in 1985 they were less
developed than a control group of children on 32 of 33 different
measures. They were delayed, compared to controls, in the age at
which they performed tasks such as saying phrases and sentences,
turning pages, carrying out requests, pointing to body parts,
holding pencils, and catching a ball.

The yucheng children also had a variety of physical defects at
birth, including dark colored heads, faces and genitals, and
abnormal nails that were often dark and ridged, split, or
folded.[5]

These children provided the first direct evidence that PCBs are
teratogenic [birth-defect-producing] in humans. Since then,
other studies have shown that American children with "normal"
levels of PCBs in their blood show slight physical, mental and
emotional retardation.

In North Carolina, 912 infants have been followed from birth.
Their mothers had no unusual PCB exposures but, like all
Americans, they carry PCBs in their body tissues. Among 866
North Carolina infants tested, higher PCBs in mother's milk was
correlated with hypotonicity [loss of muscle tone] and abnormally
weak reflexes. Subsequent studies of 802 of the North Carolina
children at ages 6 months and 12 months revealed those with
higher levels of PCBs had poorer performance on tests requiring
fine motor coordination.

Researchers reviewing the history of these children conclude,
"There is thus consistent evidence that prenatal exposure to
levels of PCBs commonly encountered in the U.S. produces
detectable effects on motor maturation and some evidence of
impaired infant learning."[6] In North Carolina, about 5% of the
children have so far shown measurable effects related to PCB
exposure, and in a Michigan study of children whose mothers ate
fish from Lake Michigan (almost all of which are contaminated
with PCBs), somewhat more than 5% of the children are showing
effects.

At age 4, children in the Michigan group with higher PCBs levels
weighed 10% (4 pounds) less than children with lower PCB levels.
The effect was particularly significant in girls. In addition,
the Michigan children were ranked according to an "activity"
index, and higher PCB levels were correlated with children who
were unusually "quiet and inactive." These effects on growth and
behavior were specifically correlated with exposure to PCBs
before birth and not with exposure after birth. This leads
researchers to conclude that PCBs attack the central nervous
system more successfully during its earlier developmental
stages.[7]

The information from Taiwan about male genital development tends
to confirm that PCB exposure in the womb has effects different
from, and more powerful than, those caused by PCB exposure in
later life. The same seems to be true in wildlife as well.
Alligator eggs exposed to DDT or a related pesticide, dicophol,
produce male alligators with abnormal sex hormones (estrogen and
testosterone) in their blood, leading to growth of penises
one-third to one-half normal size, and subsequent reproductive
failure.

The Florida panther, an endangered species, is also failing to
reproduce itself. There are only 30 to 50 panthers remaining,
and the reason for the decline has been a mystery. Now
researchers have reported that between 1985 and 1990, 67 percent
of male panthers were born with one or more undescended
testicles, a condition known as cryptorchidism. In England and
the U.S., cryptorchidism has more than doubled in men during the
last four decades.[8] Furthermore, some Florida panthers are
sterile and others produce abnormal or deformed sperm. It was
reported last year that sperm count in men in industrialized
countries has dropped 50% during the past 50 years.[9]

Two years ago, researchers at University of Wisconsin reported
that low prenatal [before birth] exposures to dioxin feminized
the behavior of male rats during adulthood, and sharply reduced
their production of sperm.[10] "Indeed," says Janet Raloff in
SCIENCE NEWS, "the researchers concluded, the developing male
reproductive system appears to be more sensitive to the effects
of this hormone-like toxicant [dioxin] than any other organ or
organ-system studied."[3]

The ability of industrial chemicals to damage the reproductive
systems of wildlife has been observed since the 1950s when DDT
was linked to eggshell thinning in many bird species,[11] but
humans have been slow to get the message. Petrochemical
corporations and agricultural giants continually dump billions of
pounds of endocrine-disrupting toxins into the environment each
year. Government goes along.

Scientists continue to study birds, uncovering new evidence of
reproductive damage. Dr. Michael Fry at University of
California, Davis, has been studying Western gulls on Santa
Barbara Island, where in recent years he has begun to observe
"lesbian gulls," meaning female-female pairing. He attributes
this behavior partly to male gulls' growing indifference to sex.
Examination reveals that the male gulls have feminized sex organs
and have been "chemically castrated" by DDT and other
environmental pollutants, Fry says.

Perhaps the new information about small penises in alligators and
humans will finally get the attention of someone high up in
Washington.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
===============
[1] Marguerite Holloway, "Dioxin Indictment," SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Vol. 270 (January 1994), pg. 25.

[2] Kristin Bryan Thomas and Theo Colborn, "Organo-chlorine
Endocrine Disruptors in Human Tissue," in Theo Colborn and
Coralie Clement, editors, CHEMICALLY-INDUCED ALTERATIONS IN
SEXUAL AND FUNCTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: THE WILDLIFE/HUMAN CONNECTION
[Advances in Modern Environmental Toxicology Vol. XXI]
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., 1992).
pgs. 342-343.

[3] Janet Raloff, "The Gender Benders," SCIENCE NEWS Vol. 145
(January 8, 1994), pgs. 24-27. And see J. Raloff, "Perinatal
dioxin feminizes male rats," SCIENCE NEWS Vol. 141 (May 30,
1992), pg. 359, and Janet Raloff, "EcoCancers," SCIENCE NEWS Vol.
144 (July 3, 1993), pgs. 10-13. See also: Bette Hileman, "The
Great Lakes Cleanup Effort," C&EN [CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS]
February 8, 1988, pgs. 22-39; and: Bette Hileman, "Concerns
Broaden over Chlorine and Chlorinated Hydrocarbons," C&EN
[CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS] April 19, 1993, pgs. 11-20.

[4] Walter J. Rogan and others, "Congenital Poisoning by
Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Their Contaminants in Taiwan,"
SCIENCE Vol. 241 (July 15, 1988), pgs. 334-336.

[5] Gina Kolata, "PCB Exposure Linked to Birth Defects in
Taiwan," NEW YORK TIMES August 2, 1988, pg. C3.

[6] Hugh A. Tilson and others, "Polychlorinated Biphenyls and the
Developing Nervous System: Cross-Species Comparisons,"
NEUROTOXICOLOGY AND TERATOLOGY Vol. 12 (1990), pgs. 239-248.

[7] Joseph L. Jacobson and others, "Effects of Exposure to PCBs
and Related Compounds on Growth and Activity in Children,"
NEUROTOXICOLOGY AND TERATOLOGY Vol. 12 (1990), pgs. 319-326.

[8] A. Giwercman and N.E. Skakkebaek, "The human testis--an organ
at risk?" INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ANDROLOGY Vol. 15 (1992), pgs.
373-375.

[9] Elisabeth Carlsen and others, "Evidence for decreasing
quality of semen during past 50 years," BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL
Vol. 305 (1992), pgs. 609-613.

[10] Thomas A. Mably and others, "IN UTERO and Lactational
Exposure of Male Rats to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin. 1.
Effects on Androgenic Status." TOXICOLOGY AND APPLIED
PHARMACOLOGY Vol. 114 (May, 1992), pgs. 97-107. And: Thomas A.
Mably and others, "IN UTERO and Lactational Exposure of Male Rats
to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin. 2. Effects on Sexual
Behavior and the Regulation of Luteinizing Hormone Secretion in
Adulthood." TOXICOLOGY AND APPLIED PHARMACOLOGY Vol. 114 (May,
1992), pgs. 108-117. And: Thomas A. Mably and others, "IN UTERO
and Lactational Exposure of Male Rats to
2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin. 3. Effects on
Spermatogenesis and Reproductive Capability." TOXICOLOGY AND
APPLIED PHARMACOLOGY Vol. 114 (May, 1992), pgs. 118-126.

[11] For example, see Robert Risebrough and Virginia Brodine,
"More Letters in the Wind," in Sheldon Novick and Dorothy
Cottrell, editors, OUR WORLD IN PERIL: AN ENVIRONMENT REVIEW
(Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1971), pgs. 243-255.

Descriptor terms: taiwan; china; pcbs; sexual development;
reproductive system; endocrine system; monsanto; wildlife; penis;
penises; hormones; endocrine disruptors; pesticides; alligators;
fl; florida; pcdfs; polychlorinated dibenzofurans;
polychlorinated biphenyls; breast milk; yucheng; yusho; japan;
developmental disorders; teratogens; birth defects; north
carolina; us; michigan; lake michigan; fish; estrogen;
testosterone; florida panther; undescended testicles;
cryptorchidism; sperm; rats; dioxin; ddt; dde; dicophol; western
gulls; santa barbara island; ca; california;

Jay Hanson

unread,
Jan 22, 1995, 3:48:07 PM1/22/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU says...

>
>Hanson quotes another pronouncement of doom from Worldwatch. It ends
>up with the statement
>
> With losses of stratospheric ozone projected to continue
> for several decades, even if chlorofluorocarbon
> manufacturing is halted soon, the potential effects on food
> production deserve far more monitoring and research."
> [p.p. 152 154]
>
>You can be sure that any money given to Worldwatch will *not* be spent
>on actual research.

John,

You rarely quote your sources.

Here is a bit of positive news for you. I'm beginning to believe you
were right about the population problem. It's going to take care of
itself after all.


=======================Electronic Edition========================
RACHEL'S HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS #343
---June 24, 1993---
News and resources for environmental justice.
------

Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403
Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet: e...@igc.apc.org

=================================================================

ARE ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS CAUSING
MEN TO LOSE THEIR FUNDAMENTAL MASCULINITY?

Are environmental chemicals causing men to lose their masculine
characteristics?

A recent study in the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL concludes that men
in western countries today have sperm counts less than half as
high as their grandfathers had at the same age.[1] In addition,
the occurrence of cancer of the testicles has increased 3-fold to
4-fold during the past 40 years; and various birth defects of the
male reproductive system have increased 2-fold to 4-fold during
the same period, including undescended testicles (a condition
called cryptorchidism) and a birth defect called hypospadias in
which the male urinary canal is open for a variable distance on
the underside of the penis.[2]

An article published last month in THE LANCET, another
prestigious British medical journal, asks whether these phenomena
can all be traced to the same cause, namely exposure of males
very early in life to female sex hormones (estrogens) or to
environmental chemicals that act like estrogens.[3]

This hypothesis is being taken seriously within the scientific
community; both SCIENCE magazine and C&EN [CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING
NEWS] reported on the publication of the LANCET article.[4,5]

The report on sperm counts, in the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL,
examined 61 separate studies of sperm count in men in many
countries, including the U.S., and concluded that, among men in
western countries, there has been a 42 percent decrease in
average sperm count, from 113 million per milliliter (ml) to 66
million per ml, since 1940. (There are 4.5 milliliters in a
teaspoon.) Furthermore, the average volume of semen diminished
from 3.4 ml to 2.75 ml, a 20 percent loss since 1940. Thus the
average man has lost 53 percent of sperm production since 1940.

The researchers examined the possibility that sperm counting
methods have changed during the past 50 years, or that racial or
geographic factors might be at work. After careful analysis,
they concluded that the diminished sperm count in men is real, is
widespread throughout the industrialized western world, and
affects men of all races.

Some of these facts have been known to some medical researchers
for the better part of a decade, but only recently has the
explanation been offered that all these problems may be related
to male exposures to female hormones (estrogens) early in life.

The hypothesis put forth in THE LANCET last month suggests that
males are being exposed in the womb to female sex hormones that
permanently alter their sexual development, increase their risk
of having undescended testicles, hypospadias, and testicular
cancer, and reduce by half the average man's ability to produce
sperm.

Five sources of increased estrogenic exposures to males in the
womb are being considered:

1) A modern diet may increase the levels of natural estrogen in
women. Fiber in the diet today is lower than it was 50 years ago.
(Fiber in the diet is basically anything that cannot be
digested.) Natural estrogens excreted in the bile are more
readily reabsorbed into the bloodstream when the lower intestine
contains little dietary fiber. Therefore, a fetus today may be
exposed to higher levels of the mother's own natural estrogens,
compared to a fetus 50 years ago.

2) Some 3 to 4 million women were treated with a potent synthetic
hormone called diethylstilbestrol (commonly known as DES) from
1950 through 1970. Daughters of DES-treated women have an
increased risk of a rare vaginal cancer. The sons of DES-exposed
women have low sperm counts, and a higher-than-normal risk of
malformations of the reproductive tract such as hypospadias and
undescended testicles. Furthermore, all these effects can be
reproduced in the laboratory by exposing mice and rats to DES.
Thus there is compelling evidence, from humans and other animals,
that males exposed in the womb to female hormones can suffer
reproductive system damage, some of which only becomes apparent
after puberty in the form of reduced sperm count.

3) Synthetic estrogens, including DES, were fed to beef cattle
from the 1950s through the 1970s to make them grow more meat
faster. Such practices may have increased the quantity of
estrogens in meat-eating women and perhaps, as a contaminant, in
some water supplies.

4) The use of synthetic estrogens as a contraceptive pill has
increased greatly during the past 20 to 40 years. One such
compound, ethinyl estradiol, has been detected as a contaminant
in some water supplies, but the data are skimpy.

5) Another source of increased estrogens in women today is the
many synthetic organic chemicals and heavy metals that have been
released into the environment in massive quantities since world
war II. Some of these compounds, such as PCBs and dioxins, are
known to interfere powerfully in the reproductive system of fish,
birds, and mammals, including humans.[6] A single, tiny oral
dose [0.064 micrograms per kilogram of body weight] of dioxin on
day 15 of pregnancy in rats has no effect on the mother but
increases the likelihood of various reproductive disorders in
their male offspring: undescended testicles, smaller testicles,
reduced levels of male hormone circulating in their blood, and
reduced sperm count.[7] Here again, we see effects caused by
exposures in the womb, but which only become apparent after the
offspring mature. Many common industrial chemicals are weakly
estrogenic,[8] but they are now present in all our food and
water, and are stored in the fat tissues of our bodies, including
women's breast milk. As one researcher observed, "Humans now
live in an environment that can be viewed as a virtual sea of
oestrogens."[9] [Estrogens and oestrogens are the same thing,
only spelled differently.]

These findings and hypotheses add to the growing body of medical
knowledge indicating that many chemicals --especially chlorinated
hydrocarbons --mimic hormones and interfere with the endocrine
systems of fish, birds, wildlife and humans. Earlier studies
have linked chlorinated hydrocarbons to female breast cancer [see
RHWN #279, #334], and it is worth pointing out that breast cancer
in women is associated with an increased likelihood of testicular
cancer in their sons.[10] Another well-established risk factor
for testicular cancer is undescended testicles.[11] Thus breast
cancer, testicular cancer, and defects of the male reproductive
system, including diminished sperm count, all seem linked.

Diminished sperm count alone is a potentially serious matter.
Many animals produce up to 1400 times as much sperm as is needed
for fertility. In contrast, the average human male produces only
2 to 4 times as much sperm as is needed for fertility.[12]
Humans don't have much sperm to spare. A 50 percent reduction in
human sperm count may thus diminish human fertility and could
therefore take away from men the one thing they indisputably do
well: help women propagate the species.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
===============
[1] Elisabeth Carlsen and others, "Evidence for decreasing


quality of semen during past 50 years," BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL
Vol. 305 (1992), pgs. 609-613.

[2] A. Giwercman and N.E. Skakkebaek, "The human testis--an organ


at risk?" INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ANDROLOGY Vol. 15 (1992), pgs.

373-175. And: A. Osterlind, "Diverging trends in incidence and
mortality of testicular cancer in Denmark, 1943-1982," BRITISH
JOURNAL OF CANCER Vol. 53 (1986), pgs. 501-505.

[3] Richard M. Sharpe and Niels E. Skakkebaek, "Are oestrogens
involved in falling sperm counts and disorders of the male
reproductive tract?" THE LANCET Vol. 341 (May 29, 1993), pgs.
1392-1395. And see: R. M. Sharpe, "Declining sperm counts in men
--is there an endocrine cause?" JOURNAL OF ENDOCRINOLOGY, Vol.
136 (1993), pgs. 357-360.

[4] Constance Holdren, "The Hazards of Estrogens," SCIENCE Vol.
260 (May 28, 1993), pgs. 1238-1239.

[5] "Estrogenic Chemicals May Lower Sperm Counts," C&EN [CHEMICAL
& ENGINEERING NEWS] June 7, 1993, pg. 28.

[6] Glen A. Fox, "Epidemiological and Pathobiological Evidence
of Contaminant-Induced Alternations in Sexual Development of
Free-Living Wildlife," in Theo Colborn and Coralie Clement,


CHEMICALLY-INDUCED ALTERATIONS IN SEXUAL AND FUNCTIONAL

DEVELOPMENT: THE WILDLIFE/HUMAN CONNECTION (Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., 1992), pgs. 147-158. And:
Peter J.H. Reijnders and Sophie M.J.M. Brasseur, "Xenobiotic
Induced Hormonal and Associated Developmental Disorders in
Marine Organisms and Related Effects in Humans," in Theo Colborn
and Coralie Clement, CHEMICALLY-INDUCED ALTERATIONS IN SEXUAL


AND FUNCTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: THE WILDLIFE/HUMAN CONNECTION

(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., 1992),
pgs. 159-174.

[7] Thomas A. Mably and others, "IN UTERO and Lactational


Exposure of Male Rats to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin. 3.
Effects on Spermatogenesis and Reproductive Capability."
TOXICOLOGY AND APPLIED PHARMACOLOGY Vol. 114 (May, 1992), pgs.
118-126.

[8] Theo Colborn and Coralie Clement, CHEMICALLY-INDUCED


ALTERATIONS IN SEXUAL AND FUNCTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: THE

WILDLIFE/HUMAN CONNECTION (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Scientific
Publishing Co., 1992), pgs. 1-2, list the following chemicals
"known to disrupt the endocrine system:" DDT and its degradation
products [DDE and DDD], DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate),
dicofol, HCB (hexachlorobenzene), kelthane, kepone, lindane and
other hexachlorocyclohexane congeners [forms], methoxychlor,
octachlorostyrene, synthetic pyrethroids, triazine herbicides,
EBDC fungicides, certain PCB congeners [forms], 2,3,7,8-TCDD and
other dioxins, 2,3,7,8-TCDF and other furans, cadmium, lead,
mercury, tributyltin and other organo-tin compounds, alkyl
phenols (non-biodegradable detergents and anti-oxidants present
in modified polystyrene and PVCs), styrene dimers and trimers,
soy products, and laboratory animal and pet food products."

[9] Richard M. Sharpe and Niels E. Skakkebaek, cited above in
footnote 3, quoting B. Field and others, "Reproductive Effects of
Environmental Agents," SEMINARS IN REPRODUCTIVE ENDOCRINOLOGY,
Vol. 8 (1990), pgs. 44-54.

[10] A. R. Moss and others, "Hormonal risk factors in testicular
cancer; a case control study," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY
Vol. 124 (1986), pgs. 39-52.

[11] M.B. Jackson and others, "The Epidemiology of
Cryptorchidism," HORMONE RESEARCH Vol. 30 (1988), pgs. 153-156.

[12] Peter K. Working, "Male Reproductive Toxicology: Comparison
of the Human to Animal Models," ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES
Vol. 77 (1988), pgs. 37-44.

Descriptor terms: sperm count; fertility; cancer; birth defects;
statistics; undescended testicles; cryptorchidism; hypospadias;
estrogens; food safety; des; diethylstilbestrol; cattle;
agriculture; beef; contraceptives; birth control; the pill;
ethinyl estradiol; metals; chlorinated hydrocarbons; chlorine;
breast cancer;

========================================================================

What luck!
Jay

Ed Salmon

unread,
Jan 22, 1995, 11:30:37 PM1/22/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
> Ed Salmon includes:
>
>> I have suggested that topsoil will eventually become a commodity to be
>> sold and trucked from where there is a lot to where there is a little.
>
> At 25 billion tons of lost topsoil per year, and 40 tons per
> truck, this would require over 600 million truck trips per
> year.
>
> At $400 per day for a truck and driver, that would come to $480
> billion dollars per year. If we had a 15 billion population at
> American standards the gross world product would be about $300
> trillion, so moving topsoil would be an easily affordable cost. Even
> at present world GNP, it is affordable.

Affordable at present world GNP? You think it's affordable to spend over two
percent of the world GNP just on trucking soil?

Your comparison of the $480 billion figure with your proposed future world GNP
of over $300 trillion is invalid. If we assume your $400 per truck per day
figure to be accurate, it would cost $480 billion a year to truck enough soil
to recover the amount being lost NOW. If you triple the population to 15
billion, you will have to grow at least three times the food (much more if the
rest of the world adopts the US's inefficient habit of eating a lot of meat
along with its standard of living). All else being equal, this would involve
triple the soil loss as well, increasing the trucking costs to $1.4 trillion
per year. This is roughly equivalent to the total annual expenditure of the US
government, larger than the present GNP of Germany, and would be about 0.5
percent of even your $300 trillion world GNP.

And this is only the cost of trucking. It doesn't include the cost of dredging
up the soil in the first place, or other costs like repairing roads worn out by
the incredible truck traffic.

I discovered I made a decimal place error that made my estimate of what
percentage of the present world truck fleet would be required to move the
amount of soil lost every year pessimistic by a factor of ten. However, my
estimate of the number of heavy trucks in the world was optimistic by more than
that. There are about 140 million commercial vehicles in use in the world, of
which 45 million are in the US. I grossly overestimated the fraction of these
that are heavy trucks; there are only 1.2 million trucks in the US rated for
gross vehicle weights over 30 tons. If we assume a similar fraction of the
world's commercial vehicles are heavy trucks (probably a generous assumption,
since congestion, shorter distances, and poorer roads lead most countries to
use smaller trucks than in the US), we come up with a world fleet of 3.7
million heavy trucks. If the average soil-hauling trip takes two days and
hauls 40 tons of soil in one truck, it would take 3.3 million trucks (rather
than the 33 million I erroneously calculated before) on the road every day to
haul 25 billion tons per year. In other words, it would take nearly all of the
world's present fleet of heavy trucks, all running every day, to transport the
necessary amount of soil.

> I'm betting, however, that
> when topsoil becomes a commodity, much less will be lost.

And you'll have me to bet against. You can claim that economic forces and
better technology will allow us to reduce the amount of soil lost per unit of
food grown. But I can claim that tripling the amount of food grown will force
farmers to use more marginal land and more desperate techniques, thus
increasing the amount of lost soil per unit of food grown. So assuming the
amount of soil lost per unit of food grown will remain about the same, as I
have above, seems a reasonable compromise.

> All the resources required to build and maintain the trucks are
> covered by the $400 per day cost.

Thay may be, although we'll have to take your word for it until you explain
where the $400 figure comes from. But if this is, for example, the price
charged by trucking companies, it certainly doesn't include all the costs the
trucks inflict on the world. It does not include the costs of road
construction and maintenance. It does not include the health and environmental
costs of air pollution by the trucks or of the extraction and production of
fuel and tires for them.

> We are still talking about the same topsoil being lost, so the
> opportunity to use barges would reduce the costs.

This assumes that barges are generally cheaper than trucks. If this were true,
nobody would use trucks near navigable rivers. This, of course, is not the
case.

> In fact, soil that has been washed down rivers and deposited at their
> mouths is extremely fertile. The deltas of major rivers get new
> topsoil every year.

It is true that the nutrients, silt, and other COMPONENTS needed for topsoil
that wash down rivers keep river deltas very fertile. This is by no means
equivalent to saying that mud from river bottoms is ready-to-use topsoil, or
that it contains enough topsoil components to restore land upstream to its
pre-erosion fertility. The fact remains that the formation of fertile topsoil,
whether in river deltas or elsewhere, requires time for microorganisms,
undisturbed by intensive agriculture, to build up the necessary living
communities and soil structure. You cannot merely dredge up mud from the
delta, spread it on fields upstream, and grow crops on it at the same rate you
did before it washed downstream. You must wait for the soil to form again.
This is another cost that is not included in our back-of-the-envelope
calculations.

Like any spontaneous process, the erosion of soil involves an increase in
entropy. The structure and ecological balance of the soil is destroyed. The
different components are washed away at different rates, to different places.
Soluble nutrients dissolve completely in the river water, washing into the
ocean where they are diluted enough to make their recovery impractical. To
bring all of this stuff back upstream, get it mixed back together in its
original proportions, and allow the living communities to build back up
involves overcoming an enormous increase in entropy. It therefore requires
enormous effort, an enormous amount of energy, and an even more enormous
increase of entropy somewhere else in the world. Then you have to overcome
that.

> Salmon quotes me
>
>> What is happening is that ways of reducing erosion and conserving
>> topsoil have been found to be effective. For example, in Idaho
>> experiments established that very small and economically affordable
>> quantities of certain substances could cause soil to drop out of
>> suspension in irrigation water and thus not be carried away.
>
> What is this magic substance? How does it affect the
> fertility of the soil? Seems hard to imagine that a
> substance that makes a soil lose its affinity for water
> would not damage fertility.
>
> My delay in answering Salmon was caused by looking for the story I
> read in _Science News_. Alas, I didn't find it. The substance had a
> long chemical name and was indeed affordable in the quantities that
> would be required. I presume the experiments included verifying that
> the crops grew just as well when it was used.

You may presume what you wish. But given that one of the most important
functions of soil is to hold water so that plants can use it in between rains,
it seems highly unlikely one could make the soil less hydrophilic without
decreasing its fertility.

Ed Salmon

Jim Cook

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 1:58:02 AM1/23/95
to
In article <3fuga7$k...@lehua.ilhawaii.net>,
jha...@ilhawaii.net (Jay Hanson) says:

(SNIP)

>Here is a bit of positive news for you <John McCarthy>. I'm beginning

>to believe you were right about the population problem. It's going to
>take care of itself after all.
>
>=======================Electronic Edition========================
> RACHEL'S HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS #343
> ---June 24, 1993---
> News and resources for environmental justice.
> ------
> Environmental Research Foundation
> P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403
> Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet: e...@igc.apc.org
>=================================================================
>
>ARE ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS CAUSING
>MEN TO LOSE THEIR FUNDAMENTAL MASCULINITY?

(SNIP)

Interesting perspective. And -- for the most part -- it's the
more "developed" parts of the world that are probably most affected.
Those are the areas with the greatest per capita environmental
impact, so it's a fairly effective feedback. The exceptions are
the Arctic, the ultimate sink for many these compounds, and those
"less developed" countries that have developed major chemical
industries or waste disposal operations.

There are a couple of problems with this, however. These same
compounds are suspected to increase the incidence of breast cancer.
Also, wildlife are also affected, at least as much -- if not more
-- than humans. See the refernces cited in the Rachel's article
and:

Colborn, T. and Clement, C. (1992) Chemically-Induced Alterations in Sexual
and Functional Development: The Wildlife/Human Connection. Princeton
Scientific Publishing Co.; Princeton, NJ.

Colborn, T; vom Saal, F.S.; and Soto, A.M. (1993) Developmental Effects of
Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans. Environmental Health
Perspectives, 101(5), 378-384.

Safe, S.H. (1994) Dietary and Environmental Estrogens and Antiestrogens and
Their Possible Role In Human Disease. Environmental Science and Pollution
Research, 1(1), 29-33.

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 3:45:46 AM1/23/95
to
I am glad to see Ed Salmon making detailed arguments.

Many of our disagreements concern matters on which neither of us are
in a position to make detailed estimates.

However, a few points.

1. The estimate of $400 per day for a heavy truck and driver
came from civil engineers. However, it is based on my memory, because
I haven't been able to retrieve the email. The amount of subsidy of
trucks is not a large fraction of their cost of use.

2. As to whether 2 percent of GNP is worth spending, it certainly isn't
worth spending now when there is a surplus of land. It would be worth
spending if it made it possible to feed the population.

3. Barges are indeed used instead of trucks for heavy cargoes where the
time doesn't matter and where the rivers are suitable. There is a lot
of barge traffic on the Mississippi and its tributaries, 257.8 billion
ton miles in 1988 for the Mississippi according to the Statistical
Abstract of the United States. If we suppose that the topsoil had to
be shipped 1,000 miles, present Mississippi barge traffic amounts to
one percent of what would be required for the whole world according to
Salmon. It could readily be increased a lot.

4. I claimed that making topsoil a commodity would make it be used more
economically, and Salmon claims it wouldn't.

5. The chemical isn't added to the soil but to the irrigation water.
It causes the soil to drop out of suspension.

6. As Barry Commoner made customary among doomsters, Salmon uses the
second law of thermodynamics, which I doubt he understands
quantitatively, into an incantation.

Final remark: The scientific basis for optimism today is far stronger
than it was 100 years ago when much less was known.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 2:42:41 PM1/23/95
to
In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>,

Especially where that faith is so emphatically backed up by history...

--
Larry Smith --- My opinions only. lar...@zk3.dec.com/lar...@io.com.
pentagon.io.com is Illuminati OnLine, SJ Games, _not_ "the" Pentagon, please.
--
"Wealth is crime enough to him that's poor." - Sir John Denham (1615-1669)

Alan Marston

unread,
Jan 22, 1995, 4:43:15 PM1/22/95
to
B.Ham...@irl.cri.nz (Bruce Hamilton) writes:

> In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>
> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
>
> >The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
> >system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
> >economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
> >important.
>
> Assumption - "the current system" is what I support.
> That is too simple, I have faith in those around me, and those
> who follow me, to identify and resolve resource problems.
> The "current system" is just that, different from the past,
> and different from the future...
>

(Snip)

> As for the above two examples, so it is with any resource, I'll
> stop using it - if you also stop, thus meaning we are both equally
> disadvantaged. Nature is not our biggest enemy, other humans are.
>
> Bruce Hamilton

The last statement is biblical in its significance...ie., the
classical approach of "The chosen people". The rest of nature
(including the `not-chosen') is eternally flawed, can never do
right (except by conversion by the chosen ones... like you Bruce?)
and all but a few will suffer the dreadful consequences of `the
fall from Grace' that is their eternal lot. Nature and (hu)man
alike is an enemy, they can't be trusted or helped except by a
representative of the word of God/Science.

Opposed to this is the view that cooperation for mutual benefit is
what drives social systems, not the `conquer the enemies' view
inherited from the wandering pastoralists of millenia gone by.

Alan Marston /~\ /^\ /^\
PlaNet (Ak) /~\ / \ /^ /~ \ /~\_/^\
PO Box 6594 / \_/ \ / \ /~ / \
Auckland 1 /^\-/ ~\__ \ \ \
New Zealand -_~ / -_ ^- \_-

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 7:33:31 PM1/23/95
to
In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>, de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
=The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
=system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
=economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
=important.

Of course, it would be easy to overthrow that belief, Dean. Just cite some
examples of things that we're about to run out of. John McCarthy has
repeatedly asked you and others to name some such things. For some reason, not
one opf you has answered his challenge. Could it be that YOU are the one with
an utterly unfounded belief?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carl J Lydick | INTERnet: CA...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU | NSI/HEPnet: SOL1::CARL

Disclaimer: Hey, I understand VAXen and VMS. That's what I get paid for. My
understanding of astronomy is purely at the amateur level (or below). So
unless what I'm saying is directly related to VAX/VMS, don't hold me or my
organization responsible for it. If it IS related to VAX/VMS, you can try to
hold me responsible for it, but my organization had nothing to do with it.

Ed Salmon

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 8:01:21 PM1/23/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:

> 2. As to whether 2 percent of GNP is worth spending

> [on trucking topsoil back upstream], it certainly isn't


> worth spending now when there is a surplus of land. It would be worth
> spending if it made it possible to feed the population.

The question is not whether it would be worth spending if it became necessary.
The question is whether we want to continue behaving in such a way that it will
become necessary.

Ed Salmon

Dean Alaska

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 1:01:42 PM1/23/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@cs.Stanford.EDU writes:
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
> The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
> system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
> economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
> important. Since this translates to a belief that people will succeed
> in inventing or devising whatever they really need some time in the
> future, these people could never be convinced that an approaching limit
> is a problem. Whether we should even try to convince them is another
> question. Religious faith tends to be hard to disprove with facts.
>
>We are willing to argue about particular resources. I will get around
>to Ed Salmon's examples soon.

The point is that it will resolve nothing. If we succeed in proving that
a particular resource cannot be sustained or substituted with current
technologies, many will say the technology will eventually be developed.
OTOH, single resource analysis does not address the problem of the
increasingly frequent need for substitution as depletion continues nor
does it address complex related affects on economies or possible
shortages in capital or intellectual resources needed to devise and
implement substitutions as possibly more and more are needed.

IMO, the issue of sustainability will finally rest in the field of
pluralistic politics: who will organize the political power to see
their opinions be the policy of the day. Substitutability fans
clearly rule the day now in the real world though sustainability folks
have a core following, including in some technical disciplines.

A related question: Do you expect the scientific societies to always
poll all members for proposals? Should they limit the disciplines
they poll? Should they attempt to ensure that those polled have
researched an issue?

Dean Alaska

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 1:39:57 PM1/23/95
to
In article <1995Jan22...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu> elsa...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu (Ed Salmon) writes:
>In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
>> Ed Salmon includes:
>>
>>> I have suggested that topsoil will eventually become a commodity to be
>>> sold and trucked from where there is a lot to where there is a little.
>>
>> At 25 billion tons of lost topsoil per year, and 40 tons per
>> truck, this would require over 600 million truck trips per
>> year.
>>
>> At $400 per day for a truck and driver, that would come to $480
>> billion dollars per year. If we had a 15 billion population at
>> American standards the gross world product would be about $300
>> trillion, so moving topsoil would be an easily affordable cost. Even
>> at present world GNP, it is affordable.
>
>Affordable at present world GNP? You think it's affordable to spend over two
>percent of the world GNP just on trucking soil?
>
Apparently he does. Now lets say some of the major aquifers in the west
finally run out, as expected. We can truck water from the rivers where
water runs out. Another 2%? Lets say the IPCC figures on climate change
become more strongly validated and that strong impacts also are
demonstrated and we must go on a crash fossil-fuel replacement program
building whatever else (solar, wind, nuclear). Another 2%? I haven't
computed these numbers but I would point out that the original soil
trucking scheme did not deal with the detoxification of river
sediment soils where many toxins settle. We're working our way up
there wrt GNP. Probably won't have the money to design and build
space technologies to run away from this mess. Hell, we can't even
afford to fix all of the old bridges in the US _today_. And we can
spend trillions just to _maintain_ current standards in addition?

Dean Alaska

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 1:21:03 PM1/23/95
to
In article <B.Hamilton....@irl.cri.nz> B.Ham...@irl.cri.nz (Bruce Hamilton) writes:
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>
> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
>
>>The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
>>system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
>>economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
>>important.
>
>Assumption - "the current system" is what I support.
>That is too simple, I have faith in those around me, and those
>who follow me, to identify and resolve resource problems.
>The "current system" is just that, different from the past,
>and different from the future...

The post was addressed to the so-called "Cornucopian" crowd, or
whatever they would like to be called. I am well aware that there
are many who are somewhere in the middle.


>
>The problem is that human nature means somebody will utilise
>a cheap, cost-effective resource if there are no immediate
>disadvantages. If disadvantages become apparent, some will
>cease - others will claim it's their right to continue, even in
>face of sound scientific reasons.

I don't believe in an underlying human nature. I think human
nature is determined by the nature of the society we live in.
The current system developed under different natural and
technological constraints that do not represent the current
situation. If we change the direction of social development
over time, human nature, at least for the bulk of people
will change also. We certainly have done so wrt relationships
between people and nation states. The concepts of national
sovereignty and individual justice did not exist not so long
ago but, although both are violated, they are common values.


>
>As for the above two examples, so it is with any resource, I'll
>stop using it - if you also stop, thus meaning we are both equally
>disadvantaged. Nature is not our biggest enemy, other humans are.
>

As I described above, I don't think either nature or other humans
are the true enemy, if such a term is appropriate at all. The
problem (as opposed to an enemy) is the system that influences
and guides humans to act as they do. That many people believe this
behavior to be basic human nature is, IMHO, a result of historical
blinders. Its similar to those who glorify laissez faire capitalism
as an analog to Darwins survival of the fittest while they ignore that
that concept applies to species, not individuals, and that the best
survival strategy for many species is cooperation, not competition.

The capability of humans to both endanger _and_ replace
or substitute the biosphere have greatly increased in recent centuries
and particularly decades. We walk a tightope that substitutability
keeps us from falling off of. It started as a plank and now it is
wire and our balance must get better and better for us to stay on.
Should we keep working on better balance as the winds buffetting the
wire increase or should we try to figure out how to get off of the
wire? Skeptics would call this paragraph handwaving but I consider
their narrow calculations no better.

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 23, 1995, 11:04:26 PM1/23/95
to

Ed Salmon

Salmon has changed the subject. He gave some figures as to how much
trucking would be required to move enough topsoil to replace what is
lost and claimed that it was out of the question. I took his figures
and showed that according to them moving the topsoil was not out of
the question - just somewhat expensive, not even taking into account
economies of scale.

Now let's consider his new question. Even at the population the
U.S. had 60 years ago when I was a child, topsoil was being lost
faster than it formed. Suppose we never move any topsoil at all, what
population could the U.S. support? Quite low, I would guess.

Salmon can take his time about answering the question, because not
much will be done about moving topsoil until the price of land with
good topsoil goes up quite a bit. (I think it doesn't have to
double, however.)

John McCarthy

unread,
Jan 24, 1995, 5:01:50 AM1/24/95
to
I want to compute the cost of replacing the water presently being
mined from various aquifers by water pumped from the Mississippi.
Does anyone know at what rate water is currently being mined?
If no-one knows I'll assume 10 million acre-feet per year, but maybe
it is more.

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jan 24, 1995, 8:05:41 AM1/24/95
to
In article <1995Jan23.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:

In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@cs.Stanford.EDU writes:
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
> The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
> system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
> economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
> important. Since this translates to a belief that people will succeed
> in inventing or devising whatever they really need some time in the
> future, these people could never be convinced that an approaching limit
> is a problem. Whether we should even try to convince them is another
> question. Religious faith tends to be hard to disprove with facts.

>We are willing to argue about particular resources. I will get around
>to Ed Salmon's examples soon.

The point is that it will resolve nothing. If we succeed in proving that
a particular resource cannot be sustained or substituted with current
technologies, many will say the technology will eventually be developed.
OTOH, single resource analysis does not address the problem of the
increasingly frequent need for substitution as depletion continues nor
does it address complex related affects on economies or possible
shortages in capital or intellectual resources needed to devise and
implement substitutions as possibly more and more are needed.

The problem with such objections is that they involve pure
hand-waving. Historically, things have worked out in the long
run. Despite the depletion of many resources that were, at the
time, critical, and in a some instances a local population crash
(although history also suggests disease or war caused most or all
population declines - it can be argued that some or all war is
a consequence of local resource shortage, though again the shortage
need not be anthropic, notable pasture decline was often historically
due to climate shifts), the fact remains that current populations
are higher, and at higher living standards, than in the past.
Now, you can _always_ argue that we've been lucky so far, but are
just now going to run out once and for all, the problem seems to
be providing convincing evidence that this is actually the case.

BTW, every doomster that bemoans resource depletion seems to assume
the capital is squandered - can someone, just once, acknowledge that
the surplus released by temporarily unsustainable consumption of
a resource actually, occasionally, provides the means by which
the knowledge to provide a substitute is gained? It seems to
be to be perfectly reasonable to unsustainably deplete, say,
meteoric iron, if in the process one makes tools and provides
food by which one can develop an iron mine and provide more iron
for the future. In such cases, saving the nuggets of meteroic iron
in case you descendants want to use it is far worse for your
descendants than using it up (and I say that, knowing the irreplacable
information on solar system isotope composition is irretrievably lost
as well ;-)

IMO, the issue of sustainability will finally rest in the field of
pluralistic politics: who will organize the political power to see
their opinions be the policy of the day. Substitutability fans
clearly rule the day now in the real world though sustainability folks
have a core following, including in some technical disciplines.

IMO the issue is not who wins some populist head game, but
who is actually right. If "sustainability" is a currently critical
issue, then indeed something must be done quickly. If it isn't,
if the issues turn out to be scaremongering, than the social
impact of unnecessary and possibly undesireable changes is all
for nothing. Of course the sustainables have one advantage, they
can, given enough following, make the prophecy self-fulfilling
by inhibting substitution. The substitutables have to prove themselves
right continusously by producing what is needed...

A related question: Do you expect the scientific societies to always
poll all members for proposals? Should they limit the disciplines
they poll? Should they attempt to ensure that those polled have
researched an issue?

More interestingly, who should be polled on "local" issues,
and who decides what is purely of local interest.
How have proponents of local democracy and sustainable use
of local resources actually reacted when, either the local
resource use is in contradiction to received wisdom among
non-locals; or, when local democracy produces the "wrong" result.

The classic argument against direct democracy has been the
"bread and taxes" argument. Voters have, at least in popular
perception, voted repeatedly for unsustainable "play-not, pay-later"
policies.

Dean Alaska

unread,
Jan 24, 1995, 4:33:15 PM1/24/95
to
In article <3g1hsr$c...@gap.cco.caltech.edu> ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU writes:
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>, de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
>=The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
>=system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
>=economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
>=important.
>
>Of course, it would be easy to overthrow that belief, Dean. Just cite some
>examples of things that we're about to run out of. John McCarthy has
>repeatedly asked you and others to name some such things. For some reason, not
>one opf you has answered his challenge. Could it be that YOU are the one with
>an utterly unfounded belief?

Where have you been, Carl? Discussions about topsoil and fresh water have
occurred recently. Dr. McCarthy is currently trying to convince us that
we could spend 2% of the GNP on this single problem (and that that would
be the total cost). Maybe you think that it would cost less (if so please
say why) or you think that 2% is not so much to cough up but it is false
to suggest that nothing has been suggested. As you know, this is yet
another one of those recurring sci.env issues and the long-termers are
not likely to repeat the same exercise every few months, even if the
Dr is willing to.

In any case, as I said before, it wouldn't resolve anything. Even if we
could show that something essential was to run out and no technology
existed at any cost to replace it, you would just claim that the
technology would be developed due to market pressures when the depletion
was bad enough to impact prices significantly. Because of this, it is
impossible to convince the ardent substitution fans that we can't always
depend on it (excepting middle ground folks as described in Bruces response).

A related question: In general, what percentage of the GNP could a country
or the world afford to deal with individual problems such as topsoil
or fresh water replenishment or climate change or toxic cleanups or
biological preservation or sealevel change or acid rain or anything else
should enough people become convinced of the problem? Are we going to start
hearing people say, "If its important, we will find the money" as a response?

Dean Alaska

unread,
Jan 24, 1995, 5:52:42 PM1/24/95
to
>In article <1995Jan23...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu> elsa...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu (Ed Salmon) writes:
>
> The question is not whether it would be worth spending if it became necessary.
> The question is whether we want to continue behaving in such a way that it will
> become necessary.
>
> Ed Salmon
>
>Salmon has changed the subject. He gave some figures as to how much
>trucking would be required to move enough topsoil to replace what is
>lost and claimed that it was out of the question. I took his figures
>and showed that according to them moving the topsoil was not out of
>the question - just somewhat expensive, not even taking into account
>economies of scale.
>
I think the question wrt costs that is most relevent is what it does to the
cost of agricultural products relative to what society can pay for them.
Food is an essential item and if the increased cost for food is not in the
noise, then when the cost of food goes up X% such that an additional Y people
can no longer afford the necessary food, how will society respond? Will we
raise the minimum wage? Increase the amount of food stamps given out?
Subsidize the cost of topsoil replenishment? Or if taxpayers are stingy,
will we let more people go hungry? Or will the incomes of even the poorest
go up enough to compensate? Assuming we don't let people go
hungry, where will the money come from? Foreign aid? Military budget?
Luxury consumption? NASA's budget? A tax on video games?

Ed Salmon

unread,
Jan 25, 1995, 3:38:36 AM1/25/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
> In article <1995Jan23...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu> elsa...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu (Ed Salmon) writes:
> In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
>
> > 2. As to whether 2 percent of GNP is worth spending
> > [on trucking topsoil back upstream], it certainly isn't
> > worth spending now when there is a surplus of land. It would be worth
> > spending if it made it possible to feed the population.
>
> The question is not whether it would be worth spending if it became
> necessary. The question is whether we want to continue behaving in
> such a way that it will become necessary.
>
> Salmon has changed the subject. He gave some figures as to how much
> trucking would be required to move enough topsoil to replace what is
> lost and claimed that it was out of the question. I took his figures
> and showed that according to them moving the topsoil was not out of
> the question - just somewhat expensive, not even taking into account
> economies of scale.

No, it was you who changed the subject when you brought dollar cost into the
picture. In case you've forgotten, the original subject of this thread was the
claim you made in the subject line that remains on this thread. Specifically,
you claimed that a world with three times the present population, all living at
the present U.S. standard of living, would be sustainable. I replied that not
even today's world is sustainable, and cited topsoil as only one of the
resources being consumed unsustainably. I demonstrated (to my satisfaction at
least) that your scheme of dredging up mud from river deltas and trucking it
upstream to where it had washed from would not help the world be more
sustainable, because it would by itself require the use of nearly the entire
world fleet of heavy trucks every day. In other words, the scheme would
presumably require a doubling in size of the world truck fleet, along with the
accompanying necessary doubling of air pollution, petroleum consumption, road
damage, and other unsustainable impacts of the trucking industry. Besides, the
mere preposterousness of trying to remedy unsustainable farming tactics with a
kludge that requires the entire world fleet of heavy trucks seemed to me to
show there was something fundamentally wrong with the idea.

But you seem to have missed the point of all of this and glibly replied that of
course it would work because we have enough money to pay the trucker's fees.
How you could have thought that was the point of the discussion is beyond me.

> Now let's consider his new question. Even at the population the
> U.S. had 60 years ago when I was a child, topsoil was being lost
> faster than it formed. Suppose we never move any topsoil at all, what
> population could the U.S. support? Quite low, I would guess.

As you know, I believe the population should be much smaller than now; probably
somewhat smaller than the 2 billion the world population was when you were a
child. However, your reasoning here seems awfully bleak for someone who is
usually so quick to support technical solutions. The fact that agricultural
methods of the 1930s (the first decade of common mechanized farming, the decade
of the Dust Bowl) led to topsoil loss hardly implies that we could not do
better with today's knowledge if we didn't insist on constantly increasing
yields at all costs to feed our rapidly multiplying mouths. Terraced fields,
no-till farming, and minimal irrigation could drastically reduce topsoil loss
if we were willing to give up some short-term yield. By saving topsoil, this
would improve yield in the long term.

Ed Salmon

Ed Salmon

unread,
Jan 25, 1995, 3:59:40 AM1/25/95
to
In article <JMC.95Ja...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>, j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
> I want to compute the cost of replacing the water presently being
> mined from various aquifers by water pumped from the Mississippi.
> Does anyone know at what rate water is currently being mined?
> If no-one knows I'll assume 10 million acre-feet per year, but maybe
> it is more.

I don't seem to have any figures for the actual volume of water being consumed,
but your estimate is much too small. In many parts of the Ogallala Aquifer,
the water level is falling 3 to 6 feet a year. At 3 feet per year, your
estimate would imply an area of 3.3 million acres, or 5200 square miles. The
Ogallala Aquifer is two orders of magnitude large than that, and that's just
one aquifer (albeit the largest one in the U.S.).

Ed Salmon

Dean Alaska

unread,
Jan 25, 1995, 10:59:56 AM1/25/95
to
In article <STEINN.95J...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk> ste...@sandy.ast.cam.ac.uk (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:
>In article <1995Jan23.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
>
>The problem with such objections is that they involve pure
>hand-waving. Historically, things have worked out in the long
>run. Despite the depletion of many resources that were, at the
>time, critical, and in a some instances a local population crash
>(although history also suggests disease or war caused most or all
>population declines - it can be argued that some or all war is
>a consequence of local resource shortage, though again the shortage
>need not be anthropic, notable pasture decline was often historically
>due to climate shifts), the fact remains that current populations
>are higher, and at higher living standards, than in the past.
>Now, you can _always_ argue that we've been lucky so far, but are
>just now going to run out once and for all, the problem seems to
>be providing convincing evidence that this is actually the case.

I remember when, in a similar debate in another n ewsgroup, one
poster wrote of a case that he claimed was partial proof of substitution.
Apparently there had been a shortage of some resource in the late Roman
era. That shortage had led to a war but a century later noone needed that
resource. This was proof that substitution had worked. Stein admits such
occurences but claims that since population and consumption levels are
now higher, it was either okay, or at least not proof of any problem
with substitution. Cases such as these prove that we cannot rely on
substitution (at least partially prove). Is the fact that such problems
did not lead to the extinction of humanity enough of a reassurance? Is
the fact that the problems caused were not permanent an excuse to ignore
them? Do we learn anything from history? With much higher consumption
levels today, the _potential_ for such recurring problems to have higher
stakes and costs exists. Do we say that because we recovered in the
past that we shouldn't worry now? If an environmental regulation led
to such costs to society, I don't think Stein would consider it an
acceptable cost. Why is it more acceptable from other manmade causes?
If a particular political policy has some benefits but eventually causes
a war, we would usually consider it a bad policy to repeat.


>
>BTW, every doomster that bemoans resource depletion seems to assume
>the capital is squandered - can someone, just once, acknowledge that
>the surplus released by temporarily unsustainable consumption of
>a resource actually, occasionally, provides the means by which
>the knowledge to provide a substitute is gained? It seems to

There have been many successful substitutions in hostory. Some were
for non-essential resources so their depletion was not a critical
problem and the resource was quite useful and beneficial as a
stepping stone. How's that? Does that mean we should assume all
depletions will follow that course?


>
>IMO the issue is not who wins some populist head game, but
>who is actually right. If "sustainability" is a currently critical
>issue, then indeed something must be done quickly. If it isn't,
>if the issues turn out to be scaremongering, than the social
>impact of unnecessary and possibly undesireable changes is all
>for nothing. Of course the sustainables have one advantage, they
>can, given enough following, make the prophecy self-fulfilling
>by inhibting substitution. The substitutables have to prove themselves
>right continusously by producing what is needed...

And if they are wrong, we will all suffer. Who is right will not
determine what actions or nonactions result from the debate. My point
was that science cannot answer this question and the only other tool
available, despite its weaknesses, is intuition and the political
system.


>
> A related question: Do you expect the scientific societies to always
> poll all members for proposals? Should they limit the disciplines
> they poll? Should they attempt to ensure that those polled have
> researched an issue?
>
>More interestingly, who should be polled on "local" issues,
>and who decides what is purely of local interest.
>How have proponents of local democracy and sustainable use
>of local resources actually reacted when, either the local
>resource use is in contradiction to received wisdom among
>non-locals; or, when local democracy produces the "wrong" result.
>
>The classic argument against direct democracy has been the
>"bread and taxes" argument. Voters have, at least in popular
>perception, voted repeatedly for unsustainable "play-not, pay-later"
>policies.
>

Maybe we should address the unrelated subject of direct democracy
in another thread. I brought the subject above up because the NAS
made a statement about enviro damage and sustainability and Dr McCarthy
complained that, as a member of the NAS, he did not have the opportunity
to object and that the statement is therefore flawed and/or unrepresentative.

Jay Hanson

unread,
Jan 25, 1995, 6:27:53 PM1/25/95
to
In article <3g1hsr$c...@gap.cco.caltech.edu>, ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU says...

>
>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>, de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
>=The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
>=system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
>=economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
>=important.
>
>Of course, it would be easy to overthrow that belief, Dean. Just cite some
>examples of things that we're about to run out of. John McCarthy has
>repeatedly asked you and others to name some such things. For some reason, not
>one opf you has answered his challenge. Could it be that YOU are the one with
>an utterly unfounded belief?

Carl,

Give Island Press a call. You need to read these books.
The party is over!

Jay

==================================================================
"Toward Sustainable Development: Concepts, Methods, and Policy"
from the International Society for Ecological Economics


THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM

Unsustainability: A Consensus
"In the 20 years (1972-92) between the U.N. Conference on the
Environment in Stockholm and the one on Environment and Development
(UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, a scientific consensus has gradually been
established that the damage being inflicted by human activities on
the natural environment render those activities unsustainable. It
has become clear that the activities cannot be projected to continue
into the future, either because they will have destroyed the
environmental conditions necessary for that continuation, or because
their environmental effects will cause massive, unacceptable damage
to human health and disruption of human ways of life.

"This is not the place to review the evidence that has led to the
scientific, consensus, but now perceived seriousness of the problem
can be illustrated by a by a number of quotations from the
conclusions of reputable bodies that have conducted such a review.
Thus the Business Council for Sustainable Development stated bluntly
in its report to UNCED: 'We cannot continue in our present me in our
present methods of using energy, managing forests, farming,
protecting plant and animal species, managing urban growth and
producing industrial goods' (Schmidheiny 1995, 5). The Brundtland
report, which initiated the process that led to UNCED, had formulated
its perception of unsustainability in terms of a threat to survival:
'There are thresholds which cannot be crossed without endangering the
basic integrity of the system. Today we are close to many of these
thresholds; we must be ever mindful of endangering the survival of
life on earth' (WCED 1987, 32-3).

"The World Resources Institute (WRI), in collaboration with both
the Development and Environment programs of the U.N., concludes on
the basis of one of the world's most extensive environmental
databases that 'The world is not now headed toward a sustainable
future, but rather toward a variety of potential human and
environmental disasters' (WRI 1992, 2). The World Bank, envisaging
a 3.5 times increase in world economic output by 2030, acknowledged
that 'if environmental pollution and degradation were to rise in step
with such a rise in output, the result would be appalling pollution
and environmental pollution and damage.' (World Bank 1992, 9). The
Fifth Action Program of the of the European Community acknowledges
that 'many current are not environmentally sustainable' (CEC 1992a,
4), as indicated by 'a slow but relentless deterioration of the
environment of the Community, notwithstanding the measures taken over
the last two decades' (CEC 1992b, 3)

"In its annual State of the World reports, the Worldwatch
Institute has documented current environmental damage, concluding in
1993: 'The environmentally destructive activities of recent decades
are now showing up in reduced productivity of croplands, forests,
grasslands and fisheries; in the mounting cleanup costs of toxic
waste sites; in rising health care costs for cancer, birth defects,
allergies, emphysema, asthma and other respiratory diseases; and in
the spread of hunger.' These trends mean 'If we fail to convert our
self-destructing economy into one that is environmentally
sustainable, future generations will be overwhelmed by environmental
degradation and social disintegration' (Brown et al. 1993, 4-5, 21)

"Little wonder, therefore, that in 1992 two of the world's most
prestigious scientific institutions saw fit to issue a joint
statement of warning 'Unrestrained resource consumption for energy
production and other uses could lead to catastrophic outcomes for the
global environment. Some of the environmental changes may produce
irreversible damage to the earth's capacity to sustain life. ... The
future of our planet is in the balance.' (RS and NAS 1992, 2, 4)"
===============================================================

THE QUOTED TEXT IS TAKEN FROM A BOOK TITLED:
"Toward Sustainable Development:
Concepts, Methods, and Policy"

PUBLISHED BY:
The International Society for Ecological Economics and
Island Press -- 1994 (call for free catalog)
1-800-828-1302 or 1-707-983-6432 Fax 1-707-983-6164

EDITED BY:
Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh and
Jan van der Straaten

The quoted text was taken from chapter # 2 which was written by:
Paul Ekins
Department of Economics
Birkbeck College
The University of London
7-15 Gresse Street
London, W1P 1PA U.K.

REFERENCES:

Brown, L. R. et al. 1993. State of the World 1993. London: Earthscan

CEC (Commission of the European Communities). 1992a. Towards
Sustainability: a European Community Programme of
Policy and Action in Relation to the Environment and
Sustainable Development, Volume 1. Proposal for a
resolution of the Council of the European Communities.
Brussels: Commission of the European Communities.

1992b. Towards Sustainability: a European Community
Programme of Policy and Action in Relation to the
Environment and Sustainable Development, Volume 2.
Executive Summary, Brussels: Commission of the
European Communities.

RS and NAS (Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences). 1992.
Population Growth, Resource Consumption and a
Sustainable World. London; New York: RS; NAS

Schmidheiny, S. (with the Business Council for Sustainable
Development). 1992 Changing Course: a Global Business
Perspective on Development and the Environment,
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). 1987. Our
Common Future. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

World Bank. 1992. World Development Report 1992-1993. Oxford Univ.
Press.

WRI (World Resources Institute). 1992. World Resources, 1992-93.
Oxford; New York; Oxford Univ. Press.

===============================================================

"Investing in Natural Capital:
The Ecological Approach to Sustainability"
from the International Society for Ecological Economics

HOW CLOSE TO PRACTICAL LIMITS?
"There is accumulating evidence that humanity my soon have to
confront the real carrying capacity constraints. For example, nearly
40% of terrestrial net primary productivity (photosynthesis) is
already being used ("appropriated") by humans, one species among
millions, and this fraction is steadily increasing (Vitousek et al.
1986). If we take this percentage as an index of the human carrying
capacity of the earth and assume that a growing economy could come to
appropriate 80% of photosynthetic production before destroying the
functional integrity of the ecosphere, the earth will effectively go
from half to completely full within the next doubling period --
currently about 35 years (Daly 1991).

"The significance of this unprecedented convergence of economic scale
with that of the ecosphere is not generally appreciated in the
current debate on sustainable development. Because the human impact
on critical functions of the ecosphere is not uniform "effective
fullness" may actually occur may actually occur well before the next
doubling of human activity. (Liebig's law reminds us that is takes
only a single critical limiting factor to constrain the entire
system.) Indeed, data presented in this chapter suggests that
long-term human carrying capacity may already have been at less than
the present 40% preemption of photosynthesis. If so, even current
consumption (throughput) cannot be sustained indefinitely, and
further material growth can be purchased only with accelerated
depletion of remaining natural capital stocks.

"This conundrum can be illustrated another way by extrapolation from
our ecological footprint data. If the entire world population of 5.6
billion were to use productive land at the rate of our
Vancouver/Lower Fraser Valley example, the total requirement would be
28.5 billion ha. In fact, the total land area of Earth is only just
over 13 billion ha, of which only 8.8 billion ha is productive
cropland, pasture, or forest. The immediate implications are
two-fold: first, as already stressed, the citizens of wealthy
industrial countries unconsciously appropriate far more than their
share of global carrying capacity; second, we would require an
additional "two Earths," assuming present technology and efficiency
levels, to provide for the present world population at Canadian's
ecological standard of living. In short, there may simply not be
enough natural capital around to satisfy current development
assumptions. The difference between the anticipated ecological
footprint of the human enterprise and the available land/natural
capital base is a measure "sustainability gap" confronting
humankind." [p. 383]

A CAUTIONARY NOTE
"We admittedly make no allowance for potentially large efficiency
gains or technological advances. Even at carrying capacity, further
economic growth is possible (but not necessarily desirable) if
resource consumption and waste production continue to decline per
unit GDP (Jacobs 1991). We should not, however, rely exclusively on
this conventional rationale. New technologies require decades to
achieve the market penetration needed to significantly influence
negative ecological trends. Moreover,there is no assurance that
savings will not simply be directed into alternative forms of
consumption. Efficiency improvements may actually increase rather
than decrease resource consumption (Saunders 1992). We are already
the limit in a world of rising material expectations in which the
human population is increasing by 94 million people per year. The
minimal food-land requirements alone each year for this number of new
people is 18,800,000 ha (at 5 people/ha, the current average
productivity of world agriculture) -- the equivalent of all cropland
in France." [p. 386]
===============================================================

THE QUOTED TEXT IS TAKEN FROM A BOOK TITLED:
"Investing in Natural Capital:
The Ecological Approach to Sustainability"

PUBLISHED BY:
The International Society for Ecological Economics and
Island Press -- 1994 (call for free catalog)
1-800-828-1302 or 1-707-983-6432 Fax 1-707-983-6164

EDITED BY:
AnnMari Jansson, Monica Hammer,
Carl Folke, and Robert Costanza

The quoted text was taken from chapter # 20 which was written by:
William E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel
The University of British Columbia
School of Community and Regional Planning
6333 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z2

REFERENCES:
Daly, H. 1986. Comments on "Population Growth and Economic
Development." Population and Development Review
12: 583-585

-------- 1990. Sustainable development: from concept and theory
towards operational principles. Population and
Development Review (special issue 1990) (Also
published in Daly, H. 1991. Steady State Economics.
2d, ed. Washington, DC: Island Press)

---------1991. From empty world economics to full world economics:
recognizing an historic turning point in economic
development. In Environmentally Sustainable
Development: Building on Brundtland, eds. R.
Goodland, H. Daly, and S. El Serafy.
Washington DC: The World Bank

---------1991. Steady State Economics. 2d, ed. Washington, DC:
Island Press

Vitousek, P., P. Ehrlich, A. Ehrlich, and P. Matson, 1986. Human
appropriation of the products of photosynthesis.
BioScience 36: 368-74

di...@comm.mot.com

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Jan 25, 1995, 2:15:24 PM1/25/95
to

> 3. Barges are indeed used instead of trucks for heavy cargoes where the
> time doesn't matter and where the rivers are suitable.

Assuming the sole use of trucks is indeed unnecessarily pessimistic.
Looking at a more recent Stat. Abs., here are figures for cost
per ton-mile of various transport modes in the US (in 1991):

Intercity trucks $.37 /ton-mile
Railroads .028
Water (rivers,canals,Great Lakes)
.044 (? this seems high)
Oil pipelines .014

The last figure suggests that mud pipelines might be a good way to
transport very large amounts of sediment from point to point.

Paul


Tom Moore

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Jan 25, 1995, 6:48:19 PM1/25/95
to
In article <1995Jan24....@vexcel.com>, de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
>>
>I think the question wrt costs that is most relevent is what it does to the
>cost of agricultural products relative to what society can pay for them.
>Food is an essential item and if the increased cost for food is not in the
>noise, then when the cost of food goes up X% such that an additional Y people
>can no longer afford the necessary food, how will society respond? Will we
>raise the minimum wage? Increase the amount of food stamps given out?
>Subsidize the cost of topsoil replenishment? Or if taxpayers are stingy,
>will we let more people go hungry? Or will the incomes of even the poorest
>go up enough to compensate? Assuming we don't let people go
>hungry, where will the money come from? Foreign aid? Military budget?
>Luxury consumption? NASA's budget? A tax on video games?

The cost of food has been declining for several hundered years. It may turn up
but there is no sign of it yet. Since you are concerned with agricultural
output keeping up, I assume you are a supporter of biotechnology and its
efforts to improve yeild and reduce dependance on pesticides.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thomas Moore |In democratic eyes government is not a blessing but|
Hoover Institution |a necessary evil. |
Stanford University | Alexis de Tocqueville |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John McCarthy

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Jan 25, 1995, 11:43:24 PM1/25/95
to

Ed Salmon

Ed Salmon's calculation would be right if the water occupied the full
volume of the aquifer. Since most of it is sandstone, 10 million
acre-feet per year dropping its level 3 to 6 feet corresponds to a
larger area. The Britannica on-line tells us that 60 percent of the
aquifer may be gone, but doesn't bother to tell us how much water
there is or was in it. I'll try and find another source. The
Statistical Abstract tells how much water is withdrawn in each state,
but we don't know how much comes from the aquifer.

John McCarthy

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Jan 26, 1995, 12:13:47 AM1/26/95
to
I should explain why it was relevant to bring up the dollar cost of
trucking topsoil. I mistakenly supposed it was obvious. The dollar
price of anything that has to be paid for has to cover all the costs
of the goods or service. In the case of trucking, this includes
amortizing the cost of the truck, the cost of fuel and tires, the cost
of any taxes paid by the truck operator and the pay of the driver.

Monetary cost is the prima facie estimate of the inputs to any
process.

You can argue that trucks don't pay enough taxes, but this isn't going
to make any order-of-magnitude difference.

Doug Bashford

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Jan 20, 1995, 9:46:29 AM1/20/95
to

Blind faith? Obsolete facts? Future Shock?

Yep, John McCarthy said to All on 18 Jan 95 12:37:33
about: Re: Material Progress Helps the Environment....

M> I do not accept the claims of Worldwatch or International Society for
M> Ecological Economics that there is a scientific consensus in support
M> of their ideas. Worldwatch at least has been predicting doom for a
M> very long time. I believe some of their doomsdays have passed along
M> with Paul Ehrlich's doomsdays.

Those assumptions could be reasonably reached if one has not opened
a Biology 101 textbook (and many other indicators of consensus) in
the last decade. Unlike arithmetic, science changes as does the
world. I suspect that Mr. McCarthy has gone so far in his attempts
at maintaining his world view that he is beginning to consider
biologists as woo-woo doomsayers also.

So? Who would John McCarthy accept? Nobody? Where does he draw
his information? An unsupportable hunch? Where? Where do we find
scientific consensus in this matter John?

It is rapidly becoming scientific consensus that man may have triggered
a mass extinction worse than the K/T extinction of 65 million
years ago. An end to life as we know it. Is this doomsaying? Yes.
Is this fact? Yes. What scientific field studies extinction? Who
are the experts? Biologists. How convenient if we can perceive those
like Harvard's E.O. Wilson as kooks. Rush Limbaugh has the real facts?

I am shocked and dismayed by the growing public idea that scientific
consensus (reality) is considered merely a matter of political opinion,
debatable on the same order as abortion or guns.

M> He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

He who maintains a static "education" is doomed to talk nonsense
in a <EEEEEK!> changed world.
--Doug

... "With optimists like this; who needs pessimists?" : G. Hardin

John McCarthy

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Jan 26, 1995, 9:02:25 PM1/26/95
to
In article <3g9eff$q...@news1.digex.net> ri...@access2.digex.net (Rich Puchalsky) writes:
John McCarthy (j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU) wrote:
: I should explain why it was relevant to bring up the dollar cost of

: trucking topsoil. I mistakenly supposed it was obvious. The dollar
: price of anything that has to be paid for has to cover all the costs
: of the goods or service. In the case of trucking, this includes
: amortizing the cost of the truck, the cost of fuel and tires, the cost
: of any taxes paid by the truck operator and the pay of the driver.

I've rarely heard anything so ignorant of basic environmental concepts
as this. I advise Prof. McCarthy to read up on an idea called "externalities".
The basis of this idea is that there are costs to a business or other entity
that are avoided by that entity and instead "paid" by society. For instance,
truck exhaust causes some number of deaths per year, as well as some number
of asthma cases, etc (modern science is unable to determine these numbers
exactly, but we do know that these effects occur). Truck drivers and trucking
companies do not pay for these costs. They are instead borne by "society";
i.e. everyone who lives in an area affected by truck exhaust.

Now, if you are considering whether a practise is "sustainable", you obviously
can't measure it just by dollar costs, you have to include externalities as
well. To see why, just try a reducio ad absurdum on McCarthy's argument;
if we had enough money to easily pay some enormous number of truck drivers
to drive, would this be a sustainable situation if their exhaust
progressively damaged the wealth-generating sectors of the economy with
which we paid them?

: Monetary cost is the prima facie estimate of the inputs to any
: process.

With wonderful 18th century ideas like this, I can see that we have much to
look forward to in this coming FAQ.

I suspect Mr. Puchalsky doesn't understand the meaning of _prima
facie_. I'll dumb it down for him. It means that it is the first
estimate of costs. He can argue that the additional costs are large,
but he has to make the arguments and not just wave his hands. What
does Mr. Puchalsky estimate the addtional costs of trucking to be - 2
percent of the direct costs, 20 percent, 200 percent?

Carl J Lydick

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Jan 28, 1995, 5:59:00 AM1/28/95
to
In article <1995Jan24....@vexcel.com>, de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
=In article <3g1hsr$c...@gap.cco.caltech.edu> ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU writes:
=>In article <1995Jan20.1...@vexcel.com>, de...@vexcel.com (Dean Alaska) writes:
=>=The main problem with trying to prove the unsustainability of the current
=>=system is that those opposed to that concept have a total _faith_ in
=>=economically-feasible resource substitution for anything that is
=>=important.
=>
=>Of course, it would be easy to overthrow that belief, Dean. Just cite some
=>examples of things that we're about to run out of. John McCarthy has
=>repeatedly asked you and others to name some such things. For some reason, not
=>one opf you has answered his challenge. Could it be that YOU are the one with
=>an utterly unfounded belief?
=
=Where have you been, Carl? Discussions about topsoil and fresh water have
=occurred recently.

For topsoil, John posted an answer to your claim. He even gave you the benefit
of the doubt, since you provide absolutely NO evidence that we were about to
run out of topsoil. He nonetheless gave you an estimate of replacement cost
which clearly demonstrated that you've got your head up your ass.

Rich Puchalsky

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Jan 28, 1995, 10:21:57 AM1/28/95
to
John McCarthy (j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU) wrote:
: I suspect Mr. Puchalsky doesn't understand the meaning of _prima

: facie_. I'll dumb it down for him. It means that it is the first
: estimate of costs. He can argue that the additional costs are large,
: but he has to make the arguments and not just wave his hands. What
: does Mr. Puchalsky estimate the addtional costs of trucking to be - 2
: percent of the direct costs, 20 percent, 200 percent?

What, exactly, is the point of using dolars paid as the first estimate
of costs? Let me dumb it down a bit for McCarthy. Consider that, whether
they are right or not, most people concerned with sustainability will claim
that the current situation is unsustainable. Leaving aside population
growth for the moment, why should anyone make this claim, according to
McCarthy's criterion? After all, we are currently paying all of the
monetary costs (ignoring the U.S. deficit, etc.) of running the society;
trucks are being paid for and truck driver salaries being paid. Before
McCarthy can argue intelligently against the position that current society
is unsustainable, he will have to take the time to understand the basic
concepts involved.

So let's go over those a bit, shall we? Resource depletion is one of the most
commonly given reasons for unsustainability; McCarthy seems to have a handle
on that one, although he has never progressed to the point of considering
that substituting one resource for another takes time and money in itself.
Another issue is that of continuing environmental degradation of the resource
base. This degradation can not be measured in simple monetary terms because
it does not appear as a monetary cost to those who create it -- it is an
externality. To take the most simple example, assume that those of McCarthy's
stripe had prevailed in preventing the ban on CFCs. Our society would
happily be chugging along, all salaries and costs paid for, until someone
noticed that UV levels were rising. Assuming that the anti-environmentalists
continued to insist, for some ideological reason, that CFCs were harmless,
eventually society would suddenly find itself in a situation where many
normal outdoor activities had become hazardous and where many types of crops
had been affected. At this point the true cost of using CFCs would start
to become evident. Note that McCarthy's simple-minded "first estimate"
of costs would have ignored this and every other environmental problem
altogether!

So let's go back to McCarthy's simple question about truck exhaust -- is it
a 2%, 20%, or 200% aditional cost? For the sake of argument, let's assume
that there are no persistant or bioaccumulative toxics in truck exhaust
(no lead, for instance) so that all of the damage done is fairly instant.
This is giving McCarthy the full benefit of the doubt, since almost no
real environmental problems work this way. Then let's assume that at
current levels of truck use, with current consequent concentrations of
pollutants in our cities, deaths and illness from exhaust are a mere 20%
additional cost. So now what happens if we double the number of trucks --
as McCarthy has proposed in connection with his Rube Goldberg topsoil-
hauling plan? Well, a naive analysis might project that the externality
would stay at 20% of the new cost. But would this really be true (i.e. is the
assumption of linearity correct)? Quite obviously not. Ignoring secondary
effects like the disruption caused by people moving out of the suddenly
more unhealthy cities; human response to exhaust is not a linear function.
With occasional thermal inversion trapping pollution in cities, a double
current exhaust level could lead to very serious deaths on these occasions.

So how do I answer McCarthy's simple-minded question? I answer it by repeating
what McCarthy has still not understood despite all his time on this
group; the reason those concerned with sustainability don't rush forwards to
argue with him, or name two substances, etc., is that McCarthy simply does
not know enough about the issue to be able to discuss it intelligently. If
McCarthy would read a few serious works on sustainability rather than spending
his time with the encyclopedia, he might find that he is able to present a
serious argument. Until then, questions like his above are the equivalent
of asking whether it is true that the "ozone hole" is a fabrication by NASA
or whether it really exists, but is caused by volcanoes.

Bruce Hamilton

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Jan 28, 1995, 2:31:19 PM1/28/95
to
In article <1995Jan26...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu>
elsa...@thuban.ac.hmc.edu (Ed Salmon) writes:

>Not only did you mistakenly suppose it was obvious; you mistakenly supposed it
>was true. This is the same mistake economists make when they think only of the
>market and ignore the environment in which that market operates. You might as
>well say that the fact that oil prices have fallen over the past few years
>means that there is more oil in the world than there was a few years ago.

But nobody has said that, and those that have seen the numbers would not
believe this to be true. I suggest you refer to the BP Statistical Survey of
World Energy, published every June. Look particularly closely at the $/bbl
price and the production figures.

>The fall in oil prices is a sign that people have found cheaper ways of
>extracting oil faster.

No. The fall in oil prices indicates that the supply exceeds the demand.
OPEC has been very unsuccessful in matching supply to demand, not
helped at all by non-OPEC oil producers. There have been no significant
developments that have reduced the cost of extracting oil. The price
is purely market-driven. As economies shrunk, so did demand, as the
price climbed, so consumption reduced as investment in alternatives
or more efficient utilisation occured.

> The fact that we can extract oil faster actually means oil will
> run out SOONER, but in the short term it causes prices to fall because
> the market lacks the foresight to anticipate the future shortage,
> because it is decades away.

As I've posted before, estimates of the organic carbon resource that
contributes to petroleum indicate that there remains enough on the
planet ( 1.4 x 10^15 tonnes) to sustain our current rate of production for
several hundered thousand years. Some of that resource is either too
dilute or too remote to economically extract with current technology. The
Reserves/Production ratio for crude oil has very little to do with when
we will "run out" of oil, and it is disappointing to continually hear
the assertion of decades.The Reserves/Production ratio has steadily
climbed from 27 years in 1979 (3.225 x 10^9 Tonnes), to the 1993
(3.165 x 10^9 Tonnes) figure of 43.1 years. The definition of reserves links
them to the current price of oil, and so if oil increases significantly in
price, oil that is currently uneconomic to recover becomes a reserve.
It doesn't say there is more oil, but there is more oil that is
economically recoverable at the current market price.

All of which means little when it seens our consumption of fossil fuels
will be curtailed for sound environmental reasons in the near future.
It's amazing that people still claim that we will "run out of oil" - we
won't. At the worst case it would climb from the current $18/bbl to
$60/bbl when a whole range of alternatives would replace it, including
biomass-derived fuels.

>The dollar cost is a measure of the short-term, local convenience of a good or
>service. It is almost useless as a measure of long-term, global costs,
>impacts, and sustainability. This thread is obviously about the latter.

The dollar cost reflects the supply/demand situation of any commodity
or service. It can also reflect the overall perception of availability and
value, rather than the actual availability, such as happens for gold,
other precious metals. and diamonds etc.

Bruce Hamilton

John McCarthy

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Jan 28, 1995, 5:58:44 PM1/28/95
to
Rich Puchalsky includes

So how do I answer McCarthy's simple-minded question? I
answer it by repeating what McCarthy has still not
understood despite all his time on this group; the reason
those concerned with sustainability don't rush forwards to
argue with him, or name two substances, etc., is that
McCarthy simply does not know enough about the issue to be
able to discuss it intelligently. If McCarthy would read a
few serious works on sustainability rather than spending his
time with the encyclopedia, he might find that he is able to
present a serious argument.

I bought and read _Limits to Growth_ by Meadows and Meadows and
_Population, Resources and Environment_ by Ehrlich, Ehrlich and (their
tame physicist). I might go so far as to buy and read *one* "serious
work on sustainability" of Puchalsky's recommendation.

What is Puchalsky's criterion for calling something a Rube Goldberg
scheme?

Would Puchalsky read one serious work on the nuclear energy option?
Either _The Health Hazards of not Going Nuclear_ by Petr Beckmann or
_Before it is Too Late_ by Bernard Cohen.

Oh, I also read Julian Simon's book on sustainability. I consider it
serious, although I would prefer more technological arguments for
sustainability rather than just economic and historical arguments.

John McCarthy

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Jan 28, 1995, 9:22:05 PM1/28/95