Sustainability apparently means different things to different people. Fundamentally, sustainability refers to the ability of the human race to survive into the indefinite future. The crux of the sustainability dilemma is the tension between what we want to do and what Mother Nature allows us to do while remaining on Earth. I would like to summarize and expand upon an article that appeared recently in Nature Sustainability. The article’s title is “A good life for all within planetary boundaries”. It was produced by a team from the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds, UK and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany.
The fundamental constraint on sustainability derives from the fact that we’re stuck here on Mother Earth, therefore we must take pretty good care of her if we are to be around very long. What Mother provides us is breathable air, potable water, arable soil, sources of energy and a variety of raw materials that we can make into useful products. The fundamental constraint on “the good life” is our ability to realize at least a minimum level of health and other human needs. The researchers for the paper quoted above described this as the ability of humanity to stay within a doughnut; the inner boundary of the doughnut comprises the human needs requirements while the outer boundary comprises the constraints imposed by nature.
Continue reading The sustainability dilemma: will we make it?
Despite all our sage advice the world, at least the United States, seems intent on accelerating our race to the climate cliff. It’s well past time to put on the brakes. For example, energy and climate notes that:
In the 1990s, the transportation sector saw the fastest growth in carbon dioxide emissions of any major sector of the U.S. economy. And the transportation sector is projected to generate nearly half of the 40% rise in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions forecast for 2025.3
Congratulations all you movers. Transportation finally is producing more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants. As my mother used to say to me when I was a sprout: Stop moving around so much!
Continue reading High time to put on the brakes
In June I posted a piece about global warming. The focus was on the role that methane could play in accelerating the warming process. On 23 August 2017 the New York Times published an article about the disappearance of permafrost in Alaska. The article, by Henry Fountain, begins with this:
The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as other parts of the planet, and even here in sub-Arctic Alaska the rate of warming is high. Sea ice and wildlife habitat are disappearing; higher sea levels threaten coastal native villages.
Continue reading Global Warming, Part 2
The media have frequent stories about one aspect or other regarding global warming. What they often don’t do is discuss the tradeoffs; the rocks and the hard places on the path to a livable and sustainable climate. The problem with all these bits and pieces of information is that, while we are discussing them, the climate is changing — mostly for the worse — while we continue to be locked in unproductive discussion. The climate clock is ticking whether or not we’re paying attention. I’ve written about this before, here and here, but now it’s time to expand on those ideas.
An article by Andreas Goldthau in the 8 June 2017 issue of (paywall) Nature covers many of the main rocks and hard places. Its emphasis is on the role of the G20 nations plus China in approaching the solution. Here’s a summary of it with my own comments.
Continue reading Global Warming: The rocks and the hard places
According to news reports President Trump thinks that global warming is a Chinese propaganda plot and has no basis in fact (or at least in alternative fact). Therefore, Trump concludes, there is no sense in providing government funding for research on it. Why squander taxpayers’ money on something that doesn’t exist?
There is, of course, the troubling fact that thousand of scientific papers and scientific conferences worldwide have identified global warming with increasing accuracy. There is the troubling fact that some of the long term effects of global warming seem to be happening prematurely. Effects that weren’t supposed to happen for years seem to be occurring already. More intense weather: droughts; floods; windstorms are occurring more often than historical statistics would predict. Why is this?
Continue reading What global warming? Look around!
Almost two years ago I wrote about the potential effect on telecommuting of reduced oil prices. The point was that cheap oil might spur more private auto use for commuting, thereby reducing demand for telecommuting — a new telecommuting oil crisis. Let’s see how things have turned out so far.
Continue reading The Telecommuting Oil Crisis: Part 2
There has been lots of news recently about automated driving. Teslas on autopilot, driverless (sort of) Ubers, all the main auto manufacturers developing self-driving cars. How is all this driverless driving likely to affect telecommuting? After all, telecommuting was invented as a way to reduce time- and energy-wasting commuting. What if the commuters of the (near) future can sit back and telecommute en route?
I originally started thinking about telecommuting in response to the question: why can’t you [rocket scientists] do something about traffic? The point being that growing traffic congestion, in the 1970s, had become a source of air pollution, reduced productivity, energy dissipation and a whole host of other undesirable things. My reasoning was: Continue reading Telecommuting in the automated driving age
A little more than a decade ago I wrote an article in jala.com on the potential impact of the declining oil supply on promoting telework. The piece focused on the so-called Hubbert Curve that shows the history of increasing — and potential future of declining — global oil production: the Peak Oil problem. The 2005 version of that discussion pointed out one possible future, as shown here. That was Peak Oil 1.0.
Continue reading Peak Oil 2.0, the new look
Over the years I have often said that telecommuting is like a tide, not a tidal wave, when asked why telecommuting is not an overnight sensation. Imperceptible, perhaps, but sure. Yes, the telecommuting tide is rising steadily, as it has been for years. Witness an opinion column by Robin Rauzi in the 2 March 2016 edition of the Los Angeles Times in which she writes:
Labor statistics show telecommuting on the rise. In 2010 9.5% of employees worked from home at least once a week, and high-speed Internet connectivity has made that easier since then. (Ever wonder why traffic is the worst on Thursdays? That’s the day people are least likely to work from home.)
Continue reading The tide is rising
The recent Paris accords on global warming marked a milestone: the end of the beginning. Finally most nations agreed that global warming is real, is man-made, and that they are responsible for doing something about it.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the pledges made to reduce greenhouse gases go only about half-way to solving the problem. Worse, their pledges are only to try to make things better. That is, fingers crossed behind their respective backs. Still, they did undertake to provide an annual, transparent assessment of their individual progress toward reducing greenhouse gases. This way the slackers can allegedly suffer the disapprobation of the high achievers.
Continue reading Global warming: the end of the beginning