Nothing is Sustainable

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

People have this idea that sailing is cheap, because of the low fuel costs. But blue-water sailors have a saying that goes like this:

The wind is free … but everything else costs money.

Reading the various pronouncements from the partygoers at the Durban climate-related Conference of Parties, I was struck by the many uses of the words “sustainable development” and “sustainability”. It’s pretty confusing. Apparently, paying high long-term subsidies for uneconomic energy sources is sustainable … who knew?

Anyways, I got to thinking about how I’ve never been sure what “sustainable development” means, and of how much it reminds me of the sailors saying. One of the first uses of the term was in the UN’s 1987 Brundtland Report, which said:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

I never understood that definition. How could I use a shovel to turn over the earth for my garden, for example? Every kilo of iron ore that is mined to make my shovel is a kilo of iron ore that is forever unavailable to “future generations to meet their own needs”. It’s unavoidable. Which means that we will run out of iron, and thus any use of iron is ultimately unsustainable. My shovel use is depriving my great-grandchildren of shovels.

Oh, sure, I can recycle my shovel. But some of the metal will inevitably be lost in the process. All that does is make the inevitable iron-death move further away in time … but recycling doesn’t magically make iron extraction sustainable.

Figure 1. Example of unsustainable development.

And if me using a steel shovel to dig in my own garden is not sustainable … then what is sustainable? I mean, where are the “peak iron” zealots when we need them?

So other than sunlight, wind, and rainbows … just what is sustainable development supposed to be built of? Cell phones are one of the most revolutionary tools of development … but we are depriving future generations of nickel and cadmium in doing so. That’s not sustainable.

Here’s the ugly truth. It’s simple, blunt, and bitter. Nothing is sustainable. Oh, like the sailors say, the wind is free. As is the sunshine. But everything else we mine or extract to make everything from shovels to cell phones will run out. The only question is, will it run out sooner, or later? Because nothing is sustainable. “Sustainable Development” is just an airy-fairy moonbeam fantasy, a New Age oxymoron. In the real world, it can’t happen. I find the term “sustainable development” useful for one thing only.

When people use it, I know they have not thought too hard about the issues.

Finally, there is an underlying arrogance about the concept that I find disturbing. Forty percent of the world’s people live on less than $2 per day. In China it’s sixty percent. In India, three-quarters of the population lives on under $2 per day.

Denying those men, women, and especially children the ability to improve their lives based on some professed concern about unborn generations doesn’t sit well with me at all. The obvious response from their side is “Easy for you to say, you made it already.” Which is true. The West got wealthy by means which “sustainable development” wants to deny to the world’s poor.

Look, there could be a climate catastrophe in fifty years. And we could hit some sustainability wall in fifty years.

But when a woman’s kids are hungry, she won’t see the logic of not feeding them to avoid “compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”. She won’t understand that logic at all.

And neither do I. Certainly, I think we should live as lightly as possible on this marvelous planet. And yes, use rates and R/P ratios are an issue. But nothing is sustainable. So let’s set the phrase “sustainable development” on the shelf of meaningless curiosities, go back to concentrating on feeding the children we already have on this Earth, and leave the great-grandchildren to fend for themselves. Everyone says they’ll live to be a thousand and be a lot richer than I am and have computers that can write poetry, so I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

w.

PS—Theorists say that it’s not enough that development be sustainable in terms of the environment. They also demand sustainability in three other arenas: social, economic, and cultural sustainability.

Socially sustainable? Culturally sustainable? We don’t even know if what we currently do is culturally or socially sustainable. How can we guess if some development is culturally sustainable?

I swear, sometimes I think people have totally lost the plot. This is mental onanism of the highest order, to sit around and debate if something is “culturally sustainable”. Like I said … let’s get back to feeding the kids. Once that’s done, we can debate if the way we fed them is culturally sustainable.

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440 thoughts on “Nothing is Sustainable

  1. There is a difference between sustainable development and “Sustainable Development” (note the capitalization). One is the concept of doing things in such a manner as to be considerate of your neighbors and future generations. The other is a mechanism by which governments abdicate their representative responsibility and allow their planning boards, zoning commissions, and environmental agencies to be run by policy set by the UN. “Sustainable Development” as set forth in Agenda 21 of the Rio conference:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21

    and includes such concepts as the “Precautionary Principal” where something must only be a “plausible” threat to the environment and scientific uncertainty is not to be a factor in limiting action.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

    We have zoning compliance boards now throwing people out of their homes in LA county in the name of Sustainable Development. It works kind of like this:

    You develop high density “affordable housing” along transportation corridors. Then you start making it unaffordable to live in rural areas or to live “off grid” by mandating that you must be connected to the grid and you must be connected to a municipal water supply of that your water supply meet the same standards as a municipal water supply. In other words, they make it unaffordable but anyone other than the very rich to live in rural areas. The poor are “stacked and packed” into “high density” housing while low density areas are condemned as “under utilized” and people are forced to move out.

    But more importantly, national governments, states, and localities are encouraged to “internationalize” their policies. This means they are encouraged to go lock-step with UN policy recommendations such as the UNFCCC recommendations. This means that a group of unelected bureaucrats who are for the most part appointed by third world despots get to dictate policy directly to the local level without anyone who is an elected representative of the people being involved anywhere in the process. And they do this under the Orwellian name of “Sustainable Development” knowing that anyone who opposes it will be accused of wanting “unsustainable development”.

    http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/index.shtml?utm_source=OldRedirect&utm_medium=redirect&utm_content=dsd&utm_campaign=OldRedirect

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_development

    So basically, some political crony of the President of Bolivia gets to set zoning standards for people living in South Carolina.

    It is complete freaking crazy and the first thing we need to do after this next election is to extract ourselves from the Rio treaty.

  2. Willis: Yup. The old Marxist five-year-plan drone, dressed up in sheep’s clothing. (Fill in appropriate socioeconomic construct) will be (fill in postulated better condition) in the future, if we (engage in such-and-such process) today. Which guarantees that none of it will happen.

  3. But hang on…

    We emmit CO2, it gets absorbed by the oceans and taken up by phyto-plankton, sinks to the bottom in the sediment layers and in a few million years it becomes a future source of fossil fuel.
    And the cycle continues…..

    This seems very sustainable !

  4. Famine has been a traditoinal delimiter for economic and cultural sustainability. Another has been neglect of the aged, neglect of the infirm,, and the selling of children when the limits of sustainability have been reached. Of course, The latest Lotus Eaters, of course, are contemplating nothing less than the establishment of the Rule of the Airmen, where the limits of Sustainability is found within their own boredom with Paradise

  5. Famine has been a traditional delimiter for economic and cultural sustainability. Another has been neglect of the aged, neglect of the infirm,, and the selling of children when the limits of sustainability have been reached. Of course, The latest Lotus Eaters, are contemplating nothing less than the establishment of the Rule of the Airmen, where the limits of Sustainability is found within their own boredom with Paradise

  6. This is the first time that I have seen anyone tackle the subject of what is meant by “sustainable development”. I have some theories about what it can partially mean based upon some of the architectural practices here in Canberra.

    Another one that really irks me is the use of “ethical”…. e.g. “ethical insurance” where the ad reads like an advert for being a watermelon. It is also used by small farmers who are making their own wool etc. Or “fair trade”, which used to have one kind of meaning but now seems to mean something else.

    I had not thought about what is meant by “sustainable development” except that it seemed to be aimed at the coal miners, or other minerals mining. Yet the truth is that if it boils down to farming that it should refer to leaving one field fallow every year!!!

  7. I wrote exactly the same thing to my federal conservative politician last year and got a response that said to me he didn’t want to go anywhere this sort of philosophising. And he is quite a pragmatic person. Maybe a sensitive issue to a politician these days when we are are all pressured into feeling guilty about possibly making the world a worse place (via AGW) for people who don’t even exist but who will have incredible technologies available to them if current rates of progress are allowed to continue. There’s no doubt in my mind if we don’t look after the 7 billion already here the future generations won’t have a chance – they may not even get born. I guess someone will find a way of making us feel guilty for all those don’t even get born…

  8. You are thinking too narrowly, Willis. Sustainable development is bigger than leaving some in the ground for the kids

    Sustainable development is working the land so that it becomes increasingly productive. It is using iron ore, nickel and cadmium (to use your examples) to build to go to the stars to get more — and that is exactly what the best of the breed are doing.

    Viewed that way your quote from the UN’s 1987 Brundtland Report makes sense:

    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    It does not mean Stop!

  9. In the architecture business that word has become a ‘must use’ term and I have sought to find a meaning from those using it – to no avail… I am forced now to treat any sales literature with the S word in it with great suspicion…

    Thanks Willis for setting out the situation with your usual clarity.

    Stu

  10. Back in time when the atmosphere was all CO2 and no oxygen, life forms evolved which photosynthesized CO2 to oxygen. Was that sustainable development? No way! They would sure experience peak CO2 and then all die out if enough non-photosynthesizing organisms hadn’t evolved right in time when they were needed.
    Even life itself is not about sustaining. It’s about evolution.

  11. See Agenda 21.

    “generally, more highly educated people, who have higher incomes, consume more resources than poorly educated people, who tend to have lower incomes. In this case, more education increases the threat to sustainability”

    Can you believe these people?

  12. In terms of just the objects, it’s merely a reallocation problem, Give or take a few atoms that are lost to outer space, we have the same quantity of the 90+ odd elements on our planet as were there four billion years ago. I say ‘merely’ but that assumes the availability of boundless energy with which to undertake any required re-reallocation. Doubtless someone can provide us with an estimate of the number of spades which could be made given the amount of iron on this planet. Enough, I suspect.

  13. Willis, if you have a cell phone with a NiCd battery, you’re really a “sustainable guy” reusing obsolete technology ;-) (All modern ones – AFAIK – have lithium-based batteries these days)

  14. One thing that has proved again and again to not be sustainable is central planning. It doesn’t work. One mistake leads an entire nation over the cliff. We must learn to treat economies as ecosystems with economic microclimates. We need millions of individual micro-decisions to be made that all have a synergistic and symbiotic relationship with each other. Attempting to manage ANYTHING on a central basis is destined to fail. History shows us that every single time. Yet every single time the people proposing it seem to believe they are smarter than everyone else that has ever come before them in history and the result is always catastrophic.

    read a book called “this time is different”.

  15. Excellent ‘Back to Basics’ post which all of these dreamers should read.

    The developing world is held in limbo at present by these fools who are denying the needy the resources to help themselves. On a recent visit to India my wife discovered that the best thing to give the poverty stricken children in rural villages was not sweets but a pencil and writing book which was immediately taken with thanks and used to help writing practice. It would appear that education is not free in India as it was when we left in 1948. If the West does nothing else we must make sure that education is free in the developing world.

    Knowledge is everything.

  16. It is something that baffles me also.

    Look at recycling, iron, steel, lead, copper, aluminum, huge savings on raw resources and growing.

    look at massive savings on weight and materials using modern techniques.

    Look at massive declines because of change use, such as newsprint and paper.

    Look at renewable sustainable materials such as wood for building.

    The adaptability, flexibility and ingenuity of man knows no bounds.

    Love it or hate it, every liter of bio fuel replaces and reduces demand for fossil fuel.

    Yet Water Melons wish to hear none of it.

    Why?

  17. Sustainability is one of those flexi-terms that bends and twists to suit the user’s wishes. It’s also the poisoned rapier of choice for the watermelons. As w. notes, the term “unsustainable” can be used to condemn any kind of productive activity. But the “sustainable” alternatives are all illusion and selective accounting.

    The greatest real force for maximum return on any resource is efficiency.

  18. Espen says:
    December 22, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Willis, if you have a cell phone with a NiCd battery, you’re really a “sustainable guy” reusing obsolete technology ;-) (All modern ones – AFAIK – have lithium-based batteries these days)

    It also happens that the lithium is almost entirely recyclable and reclaimable.

  19. This argument comes from the far left and radical enviro’s. They are totally and compleatly against today’s Western growth and comsumption as the communist’s in USSR or religious leaders in the Muslim world. And the reason they are against it is because they can’t offer the same with their ideology or religion. They can’t compete so the only way they can get to power is to annihilate the ideologies behind economic growth and consumption. They are only looking for problems and don’t want solutions for the problems they have made up or found.

    Their main objective is to get to power, global power. And with the treaty they have put forwards in Copenhagen and Durban it look”s more and more like global enviro socialism. That easily can become enviro communism.

    All their arguments to achieve their main goal, power, is mostly unscientific rubbish.
    And so is also their sustainable doctrine. Bjorne Lomborg showed that in the book skeptical environmentalist.

  20. Very good Willis, but we really must avoid “feeding the seed corn to the hungry children”.
    This isn’t a criticism of your article. The “sustainability” folks are going to make sure there is no seed corn.

  21. I hate the word “sustainable” and I hate the way greenies, mass media and politicians use it.

    I have been saying that nothing is sustainable for years. It all depends on how many factors you put in the equation and the weight you want to give to each of those factors. What I say now is that the best energy source available right now is natural gas, It is cheap and produces plant´s food, It has a net positive ecological effect.

  22. I’m disappointed to see this from you, Willis. I thought you were a clearer thinker. You confuse sustainable with infinite. Have you been reading the Bulletin of Atomic Energy recently, perhaps? They ran a very similar, though more pointed, op-ed a few weeks ago.

    You confuse materials with consumables. When you mine that iron ore for that shovel, what you want is iron. You take four kilograms of that iron and turn it into a shovel. You use the shovel for twenty years and at the end… you still have four kilograms of iron. Even if some of it has rusted, that oxide is still convertible back to iron, given the right process and enough energy.

    Oil and gas are fundamentally different. When you extract oil and gas, what you want is the energy potential in their chemical bonds. Once you’ve used that energy, you can’t get it back. Of course the energy is still there, but you can’t put it back into a useful, high-density form without expending more energy than you’d usefully recover – that’s called the second law of thermodynamics, and from it derives the Carnot limit.

    Shovels are sustainable, because after you use it, you’ve still got one. Oil and gas are unsustainable because after you use them you’ve got something else less useful instead. Is the distinction that hard?

    And, to poke about with a stick a bit, windmills are sustainable, because after their 20-year life you’ve still got all the materials you used to build them. Neodynium is not infinite, but it is reusable. Oil is not infinite, and it is not reusable (as an energy source, at any rate).

  23. You’re right that “sustainable development” was first used as a phrase by Gro Harlem Bruntland for the UN’s Commission… But to suggest that it is just an “airy-fairy moonbeam fantasy, a New Age oxymoron”, does not do justice to its frightening reach. Sustainable development is the parent of climate change; the political context within which global warming – and a whole host of green legislation – is framed; the focal point at which global warming science meets policy recommendations; a political initiative upon which the entire United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is based:

    http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/

    The Agenda 21 ideological ethos finds itself everywhere, from national curriculum for 7 year-olds to local LA21 council initiatives, to intergovermentmental global legislation. Sustainable development is an extremely powerful political meme, that has permeated all facets of political and economic thinking – think Keynesian, interventionist, environmentalism – and consider how powerful it has become in the push towards putting a price on carbon, global energy policy and placing environmental issues to the heart of all political decision making. The “sustainable development” meme has become an ideological cornerstone of the global governance mechanisms directed and implemented by the United Nations. Big sustainability even.

  24. Thanks, Willis. The whole idea of sustainability seems to come from the same mindset as AGW (about which came first, I am not clear) with the same underlying sense of guilt for being alive on this planet. It’s clear that politicians seem now to be intent on playing on that guilt by emphasising the sin and offering increases in taxes as a way of assuaging it (much as the Roman Catholic Church has been doing since its inception).
    As an architect I have been bemused by architects apparent desire to persuade everyone they practice ‘sustainable’ design. The ultimate seemed to be achieved by one firm that advertised it was doing the ultimate in sustainable design by designing its buildings underground so you couldn’t see them!

  25. “Sustainable development” is an element of language forged to hide out but convey the same underlying agenda one could find embed in other terms like “intergenerational justice” or “economical equality” or “global consciousness” or “global cooperation” which meanings are as ambivalent as cryptic to sound positive to uninformed people but are in fact the pinnacle of a highly hidden politicized agenda of the worst kind you can discover when the polish is removed.

  26. Why have we been able to mine one of the scarcest metals for some 7000 years and still we’re not running low?

    What is found in jewelry, computers, cellphones, stereo/home cinema, cars, … and even some bathrooms, is gold. Most seem to end up in bank vaults, but still the supply keep coming with the demand.

    Enter oil and people shrieks about running out of oil. Yet, apparently, by ODAC’s numbers, we’ve only used less than 0.0005 percent of cubic kilometers of oil compared to the Greenland ice sheet, since 1850. Paint that little speck on a world map and you get a visual representation of how little man is, no matter the hubris sized ego of the alarmist.

    If we even out the climate, make it more cozy like, won’t we suffer wind depravation? :p

  27. Willis, the best advice I got about boats was after I purchased mine. I seem to remember it went something like, “You are happy for only two days with a boat. One is the day you buy it and the other is the day you sell it”! I like to sit in my ski boat outside my house and just throw paper money in the wind. Save all the hassle of launching it!

  28. As has been pointed out already, North Korea is a shining example of “sustainable development”.
    .
    In order to give future generations a good future we should concentrate on building up our stores of wealth, technology and knowledge. Of course we should try to be efficient and not waste resources, but on the other hand we shouldn’t be obsessed by it. As wealth and knowledge increases, new resources will be unlocked. By the end of this century mankind may be capable of unlocking the almost limitless mineral resources of the asteroids. And by that ime we will almost certainly have an almost limitless and clean energy source: fusion.
    .
    But mankind is faced by a very real danger right now: if the global warming delusion continues unchecked then the lights will go out and North Korea will represent our future. I think that’s worth fighting against, don’t you?
    Chris

  29. Very good paper.

    Over here the definition of any kind of recreational boating is the sensation of standing under a cold shower tearing up 50 pound notes.

    And how did you get a photo of MY garden spade?

  30. “Every kilo of iron ore that is mined to make my shovel is a kilo of iron ore that is forever unavailable to “future generations to meet their own needs. It’s unavoidable. ”

    Thats not exactly true. Metals can and are recycled and if they’re not now, they can be. Most of the Aluminium used to build the vast amount of WWII planes was recycled. I recall hearing a car crusher on Toronto Island in the 70s. My brother pointed out that it ran 24 hours a day and was crushing Detroit built cars, sending the metal to Japan and then came back in as Japanese cars. Buckminster Fuller pointed out that the metal used to produce one 1950s 2 ton car was eventually used to make two 1 ton cars.

  31. Aussie says:
    December 22, 2011 at 1:52 am
    This is the first time that I have seen anyone tackle the subject of what is meant by “sustainable development”. I have some theories about what it can partially mean based upon some of the architectural practices here in Canberra.

    Sustainable, ethical, fair. Aussie, you left out the most obnoxious adjective used by these people. social, as in “social justice”. Another oxymoron even older than the “sustainable development” itself. Social justice negates what it is regarded as justice for the last 2500 year. Justice it is supposed to be personal, not social.

    These people are using adjectives to corrupt the meaning of the substantives they don’t like. They are against development, against trade, against justice so they have to come up with an oxymoron that destroys the meaning of the substantives they hate. And once they find one, they use the mass media to bombard the populace with it until the substantive itself loses the original meaning.

  32. Sustainable forestry is possible. So is sustainable farming. You get the plants and animals to reproduce and replace themselves. Using a finite and irreplaceable resource until it is all gone, is not sustainable.

  33. To some people the term, “sustainable development” means use of wind and solar panels to harness energy. I wonder, if we ever got there on a massive scale, if there is not some unintended consequence that would cost future generations dearly. Perhaps the change in surface drag from wind farms or surface albedo from solar farms might do something unpredicted. My brother-in-law (economist) once pointed out that unintended consequences come in predictable and unpredictable forms and that too often we fail to consider the predictable ones,

    As a old sailor I remember that the definition of a sailboat is a hole in the water into which you pour money.

    Nice topic Willis. It needs more discussion.

  34. Some lovely ‘sustainable’ quotes:

    “Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class – involving high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, appliances, air-conditioning, and suburban housing – are not sustainable.”
    – Maurice Strong, 1972’s Rio Earth Summit

    “Global Sustainability requires the deliberate quest of poverty, reduced resource consumption and set levels of mortality control.”
    – Pr Maurice King

    and do not forget the always funny Club of Rome:

    “… the resultant ideal sustainable population is hence more than 500 million but less than one billion.”
    – Club of Rome, Goals for Mankind

    “In Nature organic growth proceeds according to a Master Plan, a Blueprint. Such a ‘master plan’ is missing from the process of growth and development of the world system. Now is the time to draw up a master plan for sustainable growth and world development based on global allocation of all resources and a new global economic system. Ten or twenty years from today it will probably be too late.”
    – Club of Rome, Mankind at the Turning Point

  35. Alleagra, if you seriously mean the amount of iron on the planet, then your answer is about 10^24 spades. However much of that iron is in the core, and thus probably inaccessible.

  36. Maybe if we could develop “Zero Point” energy, but then there’s always the heat death of the universe to whine about:-)

  37. One thing is certain; NOT feeding your children is definitely not sustainable.

    Not culturally, socially, or economically.

  38. Many years ago when studying political theory, our class was required to write an essay on our obligations to future generations. My hypotesis was essentialy this; there are two classes of resource – renewable and non-renewable. Any use of non-renewable resources will ultimately lead to a loss of those resources at some point in the future, thus depriving a future generation of that resource. No single fututre generation can be said to have a greater claim to non-renewables than any other, or this one, therefore there can be no absolute moral/ehtical limitation vis a vis future generations on our use of non-renewable resources. Renwable resources by definition have an (for all practical purposes) indefinite fututre utility. this being the case, we have an obligation not to use renewable resources in such a way as to degrade them or otherwise render them unavailable to fututre generations. In addition, our use of non-renewables must not impinge on the future viablitiy of renewables.

    It’s not a complete argument in itself, but I think it’s still a good place to start thinking about the subject

  39. Sustainability is but one of the three aspects of life: to create, sustain and destroy.
    It’s all a question of balance.

  40. When the term “sustainable” agriculture was new and intriguing to me, it became apparent that if followed to it’s logical end, the movement’s advocates were really making a call for a return to a hunter- gatherer society, with emphasis on the ‘gatherer’.

  41. Cross country ski-ing is pretty near 100% sustainable.
    Make sure you have kids who like the sport.
    They can keep going when your gone.
    Snow I’m sure (despite GAGW fears) will always be with us.
    Take care of your ski’s they’ve got to last a long time

  42. Willis,
    You missed one. Wind, Sun, Rainbows, Unicorns. The last consume no food and produce fuel grade poop.

  43. I agree the word Sustainable is a central part of the Agenda 21 society.

    A plan to destroy the market and democracy and create a society where only socialism and communism have a place. A plan society with mostly collective solutions only.

    So for me sustainable means becoming socialist or communist.

    Been there done that so no thank you.

  44. On social and cultural sustainability, these very ideas seem wrong. Unless there is some dead hand blocking their development, society and culture are both in constant flux. To try and make anything sustainable in terms of society or culture would therefore require stopping society and culture changing, which is a totalitarian or arch-conservative instinct.

    Interestingly though, it does appear to be the underlying logic behind much ‘environmentalism’ – that society must be frozen in a perfect state. Unfortunately, as anyone who has studied history can tell you, humanity does not freeze societies for long – and the longer the old men with beards or the ideologues try to hold back change, the harder it comes (see recent events in the Arab world for example). People change; society and culture are not separate entities but simply the products of people interacting and expressing themselves; therefore society and culture cannot say the same unless people do. And people always change.

  45. Sustainable development means what the participants in COP 17 want it to mean. You are of course correct; everything we do will impact the future availability of natural resources. The COP 17 members want to reduce economic development in rich nations of the west and demand that they become poorer by taxing them and redistributing the funds to undeveloped nations. It is their fault that the undeveloped nations are poor. Slogans like “hope and change”, “climate modification” and “cultural sustainability” don’t have any meaning inherent in the words. They are devoid of content. Therefore, their meanings depend solely upon the context it which they are used and therefore who is using them and why they are using the terms. Of course the context may not always reveal the hidden meaning of sustainable development. Sustainability of the planet sounds altruistic but the purveyors of this idea are more interested in sharing the wealth created by development and in using the wealth to foster their own well being as government officials.

  46. Nowadays, it is science that is creating new religion. They may be intellectual based religions but their central theme is the same as every religion gone before. We are all sinners, we must repent, we must become sustainable(good) and Mother Nature(God) will pay you back if you are not good.

    “Sustainable” is the most abused word in the english dictionary. But in the context of warmism and junk climate science, it really means monetary appeasement to Mother Earth and her disciples. It was invented by climate scientists to suggest if good will is shown by man to planet earth, that it will stave off bad weather events like hurricanes and floods in the future; in other words Gaia will lessen these natural events.

    What makes “Sustainable” so utterly meaningless is that sustainability is dependent on monetary contribution. Everything is the same as before but now is sustainable. Coca Cola used to be Cola Cola, now it’s sustainable. Flying used to bad for the earth, now it is sustainable. To be sustainable you just make your offering payable to any of the disciples like World Wide Fund for Nature, to Greenpeace or purchase a carbon credit from a green prophet bank. In fact sustainable is the new currency that buys you exclusive right to belong in the church of Warmism, the more you fund the church, the more sustainable you become, the more you spend, the better Warmist you are.

  47. Roger writes “You are thinking too narrowly, Willis. Sustainable development is bigger than leaving some in the ground for the kids”

    And is spot on. Its fairly obvious that use of fossil fuels is not sustainable unless they are used as a stepping stone to some other technology.

  48. The earliest use of “sustainability” that I have found was by the Third Reich. Yup, sustainability = fascism.

  49. And what do women (people) do when faced with the starvation of their children? They produce more children in an effort to continue the family (and sub-species), thus there are more mouths to feed. Same as it ever was – danger of annihilation of species, reproduce, reproduce – more chance of someone surviving if you increase the numbers.

  50. Thanks for that. It’s like in Australia we have Aboriginal Reconciliation. Trouble is nobody has ever defined what that actually means. So now we have a Reconciliation Process. Because there was never a defined outcome. Its all just layer upon layer of bull@#$t.

    And Roger Carr: “Working the land so it is more productive” is more BS.

    When you grow ANYTHING in land, the growing takes things from the air and the soil – nutrients of various kinds, as well as carbon, water, and such like. The crop (or animal) so grown is then usually taken away from that land and consumed, making urine and human excrement, as well as energy for moving, breathing, exhaling CO2, writing blog posts, and so on. The urine and excrement goes to sewage treatment plants and usually ends up as solid material which may or may not be used as fertiliser or land fill, and nutrient-rich water which goes out to sea.

    The nett balance here is that nutrients go from the land to the sea, via kidneys and bowels.

    In the long term claiming you can work the land to make it more productive is complete codswallop. Short term maybe. Long term. Simply not possible, by analysis from first principles.

  51. As child, I cut down a tree planted by grandpa and build a dingy to go fishing.

    I plant 3 more trees for my grandchildren so they can do the same.

    Won’t that work and be considered “sustainable” ?

    I like your shovel.

  52. Willis –
    Nice post, but I think you’re just scratching the surface of ‘sustainable’. Yes, sometimes it is only meaningless, and sometimes merely unnecessary. Many times, though it is insidious and pernicious. It allows a whole menagerie of nefarious ideologies to creep into our discourse undetected. It allows the most misanthropic disposition to masquerade as ‘caring’ and the most fear-soaked as forward-looking.
    Nothing whatsoever that we cherish in our lives arrived by way of the ‘sustainable’. Every step along the way, every resource, every technology, every process was in some way unsustainable – but a stepping stone to the glories of the modern age. Discovering and utilising in short order islands built of guano was hopelessly unsustainable, but brilliant – and fed millions of people. Digging up fossil fuels could only ever end up an unsustainable error….apart from it transforming life on earth, doubling the span of man’s existence and thrusting us into the future of beautiful clean thorium reactors and energy stored in caverns of molten salt.
    Without unsustainable practices we would be nothing – cowed and afraid to put our feet on the ground for fear of leaving ‘footprints’.
    Down with the sustainable! Let us live fully today and make our descendants both proud and thankful!

  53. Willis Eschenbach quotes the Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Willis, one of the main tenets of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (the STEM professions) is “There’s always someone smarter than you.” The point being, you have to figure out who those people are, and study their best work.

    So maybe we all can learn more, and learn faster, not by cherry-picking the worst analyses of sustainable development, but by studying the best analyses?

    On a local scale, my father taught me that farmland regenerates on a scale of a few thousand years — a long but not immeasurably long time. And therefore, a good farmer conserves soil, and plants trees, and learns the science of soil conservation and forestry, and imagines how the land will evolve on a time-span of centuries.

    It’s true that there are some mighty sobering lessons associated to land husbandry on a time-scale in which a century is a fairly short time. That’s why a good farmer needs to be not only well-learned and foresighted, but courageous too, to face up to these lessons.

    For example, I definitely don’t agree with all that Wendell Berry writes, but any person who wants to learn more — and think more — about the sobering challenges associated to sustainable development is far better off studying Wendell Berry’s writings, than reading reports written by UN bureaucrats. That much is obvious, eh?

    The best and greatest traditions of American independence and foresight — and respect for science too — are alive today in independent thinkers like Berry. Good.

    Let’s keep those traditions alive.

  54. As we see so often, Willis puts his finger on the spot.

    As a retired Engineering Surveyor, I used to often deal with ‘Sustainability’ issues in highway and drainage design, to name just two areas. You don’t actually do anything differently, you just add the term ‘sustainable’ in several places before submitting designs to city hall. So long as it has the magic words, it will pass. ‘Simples’.

    Which is proof positive of Willis’s point here, it is just meaningless. Nobody really knows what it means!

  55. Agh, stop the spaceflight stuff. Mining minerals on Mars or Venus will require so much energy and material for transportation that it’s waaaaaayyyyyyyy beyond a dead loss.

    You’re forgetting the truly renewable part of Earth, which is Life. The nearest hope, both spatially and temporally, is technology based on cells instead of rare metals.

    Google ‘bacterial nanowires’ if you’re not familiar with this line of research.

  56. Is ‘moral blackmail’ the term to describe this gumpf. Like most opinion polls on The Environment – the questions are so loaded as to elicit the required response.
    eg: take a look at UK supermarket shoppers. When quizzed, going into the shop, you’ll hear how they’ll support British farmers, Fair Trade, Organic producers etc. But, when they’re in the shop and think no-one is looking, they pick up the cheapest old tat they possibly can, regardless of where it came from. Especially witness the rude, almost feral behaviour around the ‘Reduced price- nearly out-of-date’ shelf when a new trolley load arrives. Hypocrisy rules UK

    And, when we have saved all this goodness (oil, coal, rare earths etc) for ‘The Children’, WTF are The Children supposed to do with these inherited riches? Sit on them also? Having watched how their parents carry on, I doubt it somehow.

  57. With regards to the world’s large poorer population, it is surely a matter of time before their standard of living begins to simulate the current standard of “modern” first world populations. However by that time those enjoying the current standard will have moved/progressed to something as yet unknown, so in effect there may always be a divide between the two. I further believe that the most energy intensive period is from the “bottom of the barrel to just making it” phase. As access to improved, more efficient technologies increases (wealth dependent) I feel that energy use per capita should actually decline in those more technologically advanced populations. Note: most first world populations are still currently in the just making it/slowly getting ahead phase with only a small percentage able to access relatively expensive efficient technology. When/if more efficient energy/goods/services becomes common place and whether current poor populations will be able to leapfrog the conversion remains a question. So my feeling is that current attempts to limit growth disguised as “sustainable development” may actually hamper the transition to lesser resource/energy usage via improved technologies. Perhaps I am way off, but this is my reasoning.

  58. How many generations are included in-

    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
    Until the sun explodes- that’s billions of generations- try assessing that.
    We have no idea which we will or will not be able to do. If nanomachines and space travel doesn’t work out- we’re stuffed- so that says almost absolute STOP- let’s barely subsist so there is a next generation.

    You definitely need a better definition.

  59. In nature, “sustainability” is all really about reaching a point of balance between food and feeder.

    With humans, this becomes a lot more complicated because we seem to have the ability to alter the balance as we need to. When we needed more energy, we found ways of producing it. We found ways of producing food more efficiently. Water recycling uses water more efficiently, thus increasing security against drought.. etc etc

    Where is the end point to all this progress ? I sure don’t know, but I am pretty sure we have a lot more left in us, so long as we are not stiffled by idealist in-efficiencies such as solar and wind .

    We should be getting more efficient in things we do, NOT LESS !!

    We also need to be very sure that words such as “morally” and “ethically” are not misused to constrain progress (as they seem to be in the AGW scam).

  60. All of the resources humans use are 100% sustainable except for nuclear reactions in which matter is converted into energy. Humans are simply rearranging or moving around the atoms here on earth and putting them to use for people alive today. Those very same atoms will be here for the people alive tomorrow to move around and do with as they wish. What each generation of people need to do for the next is to make technological progress so that we can eventually move off this planet and start to colonize the universe, because if we do not get off this planet, we will eventually become extinct due to the sun/asteroids/other natural or man-made disaster.

  61. Don’t worry. Iron should be easy to make. There’s some research about transmutation going on in Jülich and Mol.

  62. Hmmmm!
    So you want to bring the energy consumption of the world to the same level as you enjoy now. I would agree that this is the ideal.

    But… Just how long will your fossil fuels, your copper last then! As the shortage of resources grows the price increases. How is the new high consumption members of society going to pay the new inflated prices. Nuclear you may say – but then you have to develope new reactors and you still get a shed load of radioactive debris at the end of life.

    Wind and solar may not be the continuous supply desired but the cheap energy for many generations would be better than cheap continuous energy for a few decades, and then back to the stone age.

    I showed on another thread that wind at 28% of rated capacity currently produces energy below UK user price taking all costs into consideration. Enercon turbines do not use gears or rare earth magnets, so only copper is a problem.

    Is there coal in central Africa? Oil? Gas?. Is there wind/sun?

  63. In the UK, development nowadays has to be sustainable. But the Government refuses to define “sustainable”. We are in a quandary.

  64. Sustainable, going green, green… all these are just buzz words that people follow without thinking. It is highly fashionable to use and “think” they are following the popular thought. In 10 years, there will be new buzz words used and to follow.

    My favorite color was green. I am thinking about a new color to favor. I am personnaly tired of these new terms. I teach geography and the use of these terms is used often in the texts.

  65. Most people who use ‘sustainable’ do so as a buzz word:

    “My new mansion on the coast is sustainable as it has a windmill in the grounds and solar panels on the roof, and my new business jet is sustainable because I buy carbon credits, (from my carbon credit sustainability business) when I fly round the world to sustainability conferences”.

    But there are those who use it and mean it and they are talking about population. They want to control your breeding, and possibly your right to life as well. I usually associate sustainabilty with eugenics. These people want to decide if you are worthy of living on their planet.

  66. Economic sustainability seems to be off the agenda. Our children and grandchildren are bequeathed massive debt and an unbalanced budget. Note that the Solyndra debacle alone wasted more money than my children and grandchildren will earn in their entire lifetime.

    JimB

  67. The left loves to demand that everything in life is “sustainable”, yet not a single one of their economic proposals ever is. In the end, leftists demand that we all must live at the expense of others and turn our private decisions over to central planners who will also be given guns and prisons to coerce and compel compliance.

  68. Willis Eschenbach quotes the UN’s Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Willis, as an example of what “sustainable development” really means — written not by UN bureaucrats but by a practicing farmer, committed Baptist, and authentic American individualist — please let me commend to your attention, and to the attention of WUWT readers, Wendell Berry’s celebrated essay Solving for Pattern.

    Our family’s Iowa farmland has been in our hands for 150 years, and it is still in good shape. When we shape our plans for the future of our farm, do we think on timescales of 1000 years and more?

    Yes, indeed we do. Are we foolish, Willis?

  69. The self proclaimed “saviors of the world” clan are more worried about sustainability of the flow of public money that keeps them from actually having to work for a living than anything else.

  70. Alleagra –
    We produce about a billion tonnes of iron a year, and given there is approximately 10(18) tonnes of iron in the earth’s crust, we can carry on producing it at the current rate for a little more than 2 billion years.
    However, there are a couple of problems – one obvious, one a little bit unexpected. Firstly, we’ll have to dig through the whole of the earths crust which will require something of a concerted effort. Under mountains and cities and everything..
    Secondly, when we have dug up just 1% of the iron, we will [assuming there are 10 billion of us] have a million tonnes of iron each. I’m not sure the concept of some of it being ‘dispersed’ or ‘lost’ makes much sense does it?
    As a side issue [because idiots like Lester Brown keep saying we’re going to run out of Copper in 25 years] with elements that are more rare like copper, we should be a bit more circumspect. Oh yes – when we have brought into circulation 1% of the copper in the earth’s crust, we will have only 1000 tonnes of copper each and only one million years will have elapsed. Obviously, some rationing will be in order…
    As far as spades are concerned(!) I think with a kilo of iron per spade and a wooden handle, before we get to that 1% extraction we’ll have spades across the earth 1000 feet deep.
    You’re right – ‘running out’ of elements is an impossibility – where are they going to go?
    And as for energy, how many hundreds of millions of years of energy pouring out of the sun before we notice any change?
    Elements and energy? – forever.

  71. Roger Carr says:

    “Sustainable development is working the land so that it becomes increasingly productive.”

    Increasingly productive as compared to what? Do you really believe that a “sustainable” farm is more productive than a modern “non-sustainable” farm? If that was the case, then all farms would be moving towards “sustainable”. After all, productivity is today’s driver for almost everything. If all farms were practicing “sustainable” farming, I’m afraid an even greater portion of the world’s population would be hungry.

    Perhaps these “sustainable” farms use less herbicide and fertilizer, which the “sustainable” crowd loves, but more productive? I don’t think so.

  72. @Roger Carr

    “Sustainable development is working the land so that it becomes increasingly productive.”

    Yay, Norman Borlaug is my hero too!

  73. Iron, like many other metals, have been recycled for many years. It is not true that your shovel is not going to be available – the atoms of it – for future generations. Metals can be recycled over and over and over and over again. This makes them sustainable.

  74. Thanks WiIlis! Sustainable development is a buzzword that is used devoid of significance. It assumes we know what future development will be – what we do not. We only dream about it. The same error the socialists/communist did with their development plans, planning more and more of the same. Not understanding there is change in the development, there is evolution.
    And what do they sell for it?
    Back to old type agriculture using farm animals and human labour? What is sustainable? Stone age?
    You are right, important is to focus on solving the big problems we human still have, access to resources, food, cheap energy, to be able to think further then only to feed and find shelter for the rain and cold.

    Roger Carr says:
    December 22, 2011 at 1:56 am
    “Sustainable development is working the land so that it becomes increasingly productive. It is using iron ore, nickel and cadmium (to use your examples) to build to go to the stars to get more”
    Interesting what you are telling Roger. Can you deliberate or point to some links or information from where you have this understanding?

  75. Sustainable is a buzzword chosen precisely because it’s vague. Meaning is in the mind of the hearer and is as fungible as the terms “organic,” “improved,” “green.” Most people probably take it to mean, as you say, “we should live as lightly as possible on this marvelous planet.” At least that’s the way it’s being applied to the construction of new buildings and energy use on my campus. However, I agree that the shallow-thinking don’t make the connection between some so-called environmentalist beliefs and the effect they have on the impoverished. So the criticism applies to the radical end of the spectrum, and less so of the general public.

  76. You’re right that “sustainable development” was first used as a phrase by Gro Harlem Bruntland for the UN’s Commission… But to suggest that it is just an “airy-fairy moonbeam fantasy, a New Age oxymoron”, does not do justice to its frightening reach. Sustainable development is the parent of climate change; the political context within which global warming – and a whole host of green legislation – is framed; the focal point at which global warming science meets policy recommendations; a political initiative upon which the entire United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is based:

    http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/

    The Agenda 21 ideological ethos finds itself everywhere, from national curriculum for 7 year-olds to local LA21 council initiatives, to intergovernmental global legislation. Sustainable development is an extremely powerful political meme, that has permeated all facets of political and economic thinking – think Keynesian, interventionist, environmentalism – and consider how powerful it has become in the push towards putting a price on carbon, global energy policy and placing environmental issues at the heart of all political decision making. The “sustainable development” meme has become an ideological cornerstone of the global governance mechanisms directed and implemented by the United Nations. Big sustainability even.

  77. Willis,
    You are looking at the wrong “sustainability”. Quite simply it means the ability to maintain or increase funding from OPM (other people’s money) in the UN sense of the word. That much is obvious to me.

  78. Eh, careful, lad, we can’t have people questioning the greenie weenies’ lexicon. When they use these words, they mean whatever they want them to mean – usually, that whatever you’re doing is wrong and that you must learn instead to do what you’re told by some petty box-ticker. After all, if we don’t know what they’re talking about, we can’t argue about it … which is just what they want. A good call, Willis.

    @Frosty (2:09 am) … Unfortunately we have to believe them. They’re really out there, and just as nasty as they seem. Everybody should read Agenda 21 and take heed.

  79. I am glad these sustainable ideas did not exist hundreds if not thousands of years ago when people were going place and doing things. We would not be where we are today if our ancestors had worried about sustainability before going forward. Still living in mud huts I would think as there is more mud than wood.

  80. Tom says:
    December 22, 2011 at 2:43 am

    “I’m disappointed to see this from you, Willis. I thought you were a clearer thinker.”

    What led you to think that?

    [REPLY: Perhaps he compared me with you … on a more serious note, Dave, do you have to work hard at being such an unpleasant jerk, or does it just come natural to you? How about you try to contribute something to a conversation, instead of insisting on exercising your god-given right to be a jerk? -w.]

  81. bwanajohn says:
    December 22, 2011 at 6:01 am

    You’re exactly right. Sustainability to these cretins means how long they can be in control of tax dollars funding their projects. I live in West Texas. There are THOUSANDS of windmills out here, and to my knowledge, not a one of them produce enough electricity to make a profit. They’re all subsidized by tax dollars. Using wind energy is a great idea if only they would pay for themselves.

  82. Babsy says:
    December 22, 2011 at 5:37 am
    Ahhhh! Entropy!

    Exactly!

    Sustainable development is the new perpetual motion machine. A chimera.

  83. Willis, you miss the entire premise of “sustainable”. They want us to voluntarily return to a hunter-gathering lifestyle. That, they will claim, is the only time in history when humans were sustainable. They look at that as some romantic time in human history when we were one with nature.

    Of course they completely ignore what that means in the real world. We were sustainable then because of the brutality of natural selection. But then they argue that natural selection isn’t brutal. They do live in a wonderland…

  84. The phrase (sustainable development) is merely a club with which to beat people into submission. Theoretically it could be used to justify genocide. Suppose the EPA gets their wish with this (as noted up-thread) and proclaims that a population of over 300 million in the US is ‘unsustainable’ (current population is ~307million)? China already did this many years ago with their ‘one child’ policy’, did they not? Didn’t work out quite as they had hoped, but many millions died because of it.

    ‘Sustainable development’ is the most dangerous, evil and frightening phrase ever voiced.

  85. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 5:13 am

    You seem to be confusing bottom-up and top-down, sir. Your farmer family are acting on what they know about their environment in order to maintain that environment; that is sustainability as most people understand the word. However, the word “sustainability” means something very different in the context of any sort of official proclamation on the subject, where its meaning becomes “whatever the state decides”.

    Your family know their land and can care for it. Can a bureaucrat who spends his entire life in an air-conditioned office know anything about maintaining farmland, even with advisors? Even if he used to work on a farm, he can’t know what land in other areas would need.

    Farming practices that work in Europe and North America don’t work in South America at all, so even if you have the perfect UN official who was raised on the perfect farm and knows exactly what that farm needs, he would be useless deciding what’s “sustainable” in a south-american milieu. The discouragement of semi-nomadic slash-and-burn farming in favour of European permanently-sited farm practices is the perfect example of this: slash and burn looks ugly, so it is declared “unsustainable” even though it’s been practices for thousands of years. European practices produce nice neat fields that look sustainable but destroy nearly the entire biomass of an area of land, resulting in the very thin topsoil floating away into the air and washing out to sea in huge torrents. The end result is the UN decides that farming itself is “unsustainable” in large parts of south america, and attempts to discourage it entirely, or pushes reliance on “natural” methods that amount to little more than hunter-gatherer foraging and which are not remotely sustainable over any length of time, but which are called “sustainable” because they force a reduction in human population.

    Bottom up would have maintained the use of methods that were best suited to living in a tropical environment. Top down just buggers everything up. Your example of your family’s farm is a bottom-up approach that would be essentially wiped out by the top-down, dictatorial approach you seem to support.

  86. Sustainability in Willis’ definition would be like some laws in physics like the ideal gas law or the frictionless surface or absolute zero. They are theoretically unobtainable in reality yet can be so closely approached that, for all practical purposes, they are acheived.

    For instance, if one doesn’t abandon one’s shovel to the elements as the one in the picture one may keep it in perfect repair so when one goes to hitchhiking surfer sailor strummer afterlife one leaves a perfectly serviceable shovel for the use of those still bound to the mortal coil. Sustainability may be approached even if it may not be perfectly acheived.

    Of course most people know that and don’t write pedantic nitwittery about it just to see their prose and pictures filling column space on blog and hear their dimwitted cheerleaders sing praises about it.

  87. “Finally, there is an underlying arrogance about the concept that I find disturbing. Forty percent of the world’s people live on less than $2 per day. In China it’s sixty percent. In India, three-quarters of the population lives on under $2 per day.”

    Making this claim is common, usually as an attempt to make our lifestyle some kind of glutonous waste. But it’s a bogus comparison. It’s like claiming that a mouse eats less than an elephant, so the elephant must eat less.

    The claim is bogus because the elephant (the advanced first world) requires more food (money) just to keep going. The mouse (third world) needs less food (money) because it is smaller (not as advanced). Forcing the elephant to eat less (reduce consumption) would starve the animal to death. Forcing the mouse to eat more, will just mean more mice to feed.

    It takes time for mice like organisms to evolved into elephant like organisms.

  88. To be heretical -“sustainable” to me is a fast breeder reactor. Supplemented by a
    series of Thorium pebble bed reactors….

  89. RE: Main Article
    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    I presume that this was meant to point out the possibility that conventional nuclear power may, by a continual chain of Chernobyl and Fukushima style events, render the world so contaminated with dangerous long-lived transuranic wastes as to be uninhabitable for almost a million years.

    As for resource depletion, since there will be an indefinite number of future generations, there is no way we can preserve exhaustible resources for them short of complete abstinence of their use. This would presume that we could establish a rational for saying that some future generation might have a superior claim on using them. In the case of carbon power, we are well past the time when such a decision could have been made painlessly.

    At some time in the future, the exhaustion of resources may render the current population ‘unsustainable.’ Nature, operating in the guise of the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse,’ or perhaps a future ‘United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Population Control’ will enforce a number of very unpleasant and probably very controversial measures to reduce world population to solar-sustainable limits.

    I believe it is our duty, as users of temporarily abundant resources, to do our best to provide succeeding generations with one or more effective low-cost alternatives to carbon power *before* it is depleted. With an inexhaustible source of low-cost energy, such as *might* be obtainable from liquid-state thorium nuclear reactors, the iron from that shovel would be continually restorable to its original state, even if it has to be extracted from seawater.

  90. “Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class – involving high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, appliances, air-conditioning, and suburban housing – are not sustainable.”
    – Maurice Strong, 1972′s Rio Earth Summit

    A multi-millionaire who lives in China inside a walled compound. Wanna bet he has steak for dinner? The man is a gross incompetence. He almost destroyed Ontario Hydro, we are still paying off the debt from that company, and that was almost 30 years ago now. He’s classic Marxist.

  91. How could I use a shovel to turn over the earth for my garden, for example? Every kilo of iron ore that is mined to make my shovel is a kilo of iron ore that is forever unavailable to “future generations to meet their own needs”. It’s unavoidable. Which means that we will run out of iron, and thus any use of iron is ultimately unsustainable. My shovel use is depriving my great-grandchildren of shovels.

    Willis, did you really mean to use iron as an example of ” ‘ forever unavailable ‘ to future generations”?

    Iron is one of the most re-used materials we utilize. We re-melt it and doing so is more efficient than iron from ore. Who knows where the steel in your car or stove – or shovel – came from, and how many times it has been processed? It might be once, and it might be ten times or more.

    Iron in goods today may be one of the materials of today that is most likely to be used by your great-great-great grandkids – and in the process it may be re-used scores or hundreds of times.

    IMHO, you could have used a better example.

  92. [That post by feet2thefire is one of my userIDs here, but not the one I meant to post as. It should have been under the name Steve Garcia.]

  93. Is wind really sustainable? Wind is caused to a large extent by the Coriolis force, which in turn is caused by the earth’s rotation. So, isn’t wind energy really rather earth rotation energy? Doesn’t wind power take a bite out of the finite resource of the earth’s rotation?

  94. Some resources are depleted faster than they can be generated or grown, but not all of them. More strawman logic fail from willis, this is becoming a pattern.

  95. Well said Willis. I stumbled on this book “What Environmentalists Need to Know about Economics” by Jason Scorse, an environmental economics prof in the USA (you can download the entire book for free as a pdf at http://policy.miis.edu/faculty/faculty.html?id=171). I thought he was spot on. It was a refreshing read and helped me solidify some of my thoughts on how we should go about treading lightly on the earth. I thought you folks might value it as well. He talks about how we must discount the future when we make value jugements. Words like ‘sustainability’, ‘our future generations’, etc are emotive but little else. It is when we sit down and quantify (even approximately) our options that the proper basis for decisions and actios begin to form.

    Bill

  96. You comment, “nothing is sustainable” highlights a point, but you miss a few things.

    As for iron ore. Iron ore won’t run out for human needs. Iron is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust. We only mine the very top grade of this resource, less than 0.0001% of the earth’s crustal resource of iron. Current cut off grades are of the order of 45%, depending on other factors. When this runs out, we mine, 44%, then 43% and so on. Each lowering of grade increases the size of the resource available. Most of the worlds iron ore is mined from an ancient sea rich in iron; this source of iron is not currently being produced geologically, so is not being renewed,but other sources are available (eg iron skarns).

    But as for sustainability as a concept, you have a point, sort of. I often say to people if they want to follow ‘sustainability’ to its logical conclusion, then you need to get rid of people, because every single one of us is not sustainable, we ALL die, however, populations as a whole ARE sustainable (at least in terms relevant to human needs, evolution itself shows even populations, ie species, are not sustainable indefinitely), and that is the point. In other words, individuals are not sustainable, but populations but we dont get rid of individuals just because they are not sustainable.(which is also related to advanced complex social issues such as individual rights, for example)

    Mines are one of the things that are similar to people. (Nature seems to recognise that individual ‘entities’ are not sustainable, but whole ‘orders’ of such entities can be). Individuals mines are not sustainable, but mining as a whole, is.We cannot ‘run out’ of gold, copper, iron, nickle, cadmium, etc etc, because these resources in the earths crust are very large in temrs of human needs, but individual mines can, and do, ‘run out’, just like individual people, who die. So this is what you say to people who dont like mining because it is not ‘sustainable’, you just tell them that individual people are not sustainable either, and so they soon realise there are exceptions to the rule. Many exceptions.

    But you have a point, but its complicated.

  97. Remember, sustainability must also be “smart”. Smartness is reserved for the dipsh*ts that are responsible for global warming alarmism and all of that other stuff.

    [Language. Be polite. Robt]

  98. The attraction of sails in small boats is range. As boat size decreases it becomes impossible to carry enough fuel to cross an ocean. For example, we crossed the Pacific in a 40 foot sailboat. The boat itself had a range under power of about 500 miles, which is good for a small boat. The distances between fuel stops across the Pacific are often well in excess of 1000 miles.

    From a cost point of view, sails are a disaster. If you are operating to a schedule where you must pay crew and schedule dock space and delivery for loading and unloading, then the cost of unreliable winds will quickly overwhelm any fuel savings.

    On a per mile basis alone, the wear and tear costs of sail outweigh the costs of diesel. While the wind may be free, the effects it has on sails and rigging is definitely not free. An ocean crossing under sail is a continual battle to identify and repair wear points before they reach the point of failure, especially at night when visibility is reduced.

    Even then, the reason you battle wear and tear is not so much cost, as the fact that spares are limited on an ocean crossing. For reasons of comfort, stability and safety you often need to have the sails up to limit motion, not simply for propulsion, even though this increases wear and tear.

    For example, when sitting becalmed, the flapping of sails is often preferable to rolling your guts out in a seaway. However, the flapping is not gentle. With modern sails each roll of the boat sounds like a cracking of a whip, which shudders violently throughout the boat and every piece of gear. I estimated the wear cost under these conditions at as much as $1 per roll of the boat, which averages about once every 7-10 seconds.

  99. Sustainable development is the 21st century version of communism.

    Greens are the useful idiots with the simplistic moral message to give cover to the bureaucrats to take away your liberty. They are even funded by government.

    Instead of going to the local bureaucrat for a production quota you go to the local bureaucrat for the permission to consume energy – which is far wider and allows them to do back-room deals.

    The windmills, electric cars, solar panels are not intended to be viable they are intended to prick your psyche – hence feed in tariffs. It is to get the most people possible feeling they are gaining from it or arguing on the basis of it – not to address the (non) problem.

    They will fail because of the economic crash, and the ponzi pyramid they had to produce to keep it going – people that would naturally object were paid off by basically giving them their existing profit for less work and a functioning monopoly – at the end customers cost who did not understand.
    The media and universities were bought with grants and government advertising. These funds will be hard to maintain. It is scary how close they came though.

  100. Stop it with that bourgeois thinking, Willis.

    Like the meaning of is, Sustainable Development means whatever we need it to mean, when we need it.

    Trying to say it means one thing, and always sticking to it, is anti-progressive.

    ~More Soylent Green!

  101. Well said Willis. This phrase is a post-modern oxymoron, and the UN’s definition reveals that they have turned the “means” into an “end”. They have made “sustainable” the goal and completely ignore “development”. This is why the post-modern, nihilistic collectivists create these pseudo concepts; it is nothing more than a verbal sleight of hand to avert our attention and goad us into feeling guilty about the manner in which we support our lives and feed our kids.

    This pseudo concept is a package deal to undermine, hamstring and inhibit honest, real-world, here and now development.

  102. “Sustainable” is a poorly understood and misused term. The market based economies are inherently “sustainable” in that the market price mechanism will always over time use the most efficient method to produce goods and services, thus limiting the consumption of anything that is in short supply.

    On the other hand, centrally planned economies are inherently “non sustainable” in that they substitute objectives other than market efficiency in place of the price mechanism. For example, the use of taxes and subsidies to encourage activities that do not reflect relative supply and demand. This is inherently unsustainable long term, as has been demonstrated time and time again by every government that has attempted this solution. The EU debt crisis is simply the latest example.

  103. Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In simplest terms sustainability as defined by the un-accountable self-identified liberal elite is the capacity of the people to endure the desires of the un-accountable liberal elite who would impose the cultural, economic and social sustainability policies, laws and taxes to sustain their demands under the force of their policies, laws and taxes.

    Dictators sustain their power through crisis, lies and threats and force. Sustainability in this case is no more than that. And dictators also attempt to paint their desires as a noble cause in this case the cause is sustainability.

  104. My definition of sustainable:

    If a generation increases the value of untapped resources through technology improvements more than it decreases them through use, that generation’s activities are sustainable.

    In terms of shovels, if you start with sufficient resources to make 100T shovels and deplete 20% of that without advancing any technologies, then you are unsustainable. You started with 100T potential shovels and ended with 80T. But if you invent a new type of shovel that uses 30% less resources at the same time as depleting those resources, then you are acting sustainably. You leave behind sufficient resources to make 104T shovels.

    If we burn all of the world’s coal and gas at the same time that we invent cost effective fusion power plants that can power the world indefinitely, then we acted sustainably.

    The only practical path to sustainability is through constantly improving technology.

  105. I always laugh at how many of the same people who talk about sustainability also claim that the world’s biggest ponzi scheme Social Security is sustainable.

  106. Fantastic, another ‘Rational Optimist’, there are not many of us in this world. Here is to hoping for more critical thinking in the future instead emotional emoting!

    Thanks.

  107. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 5:13 am
    Our family’s Iowa farmland has been in our hands for 150 years, and it is still in good shape.

    Is there enough land for everyone in America to have a farm in Iowa? In not, then the practice of individuals owning farms is inherently unsustainable, as eventually there will be a shortage of farm land, which drives the price out of reach for new farmers.

    150 years ago there was a lot of farmland available in America, which made the price affordable. The former inhabitants having been removed under a process that itself is not sustainable, except by the next conquering invader.

  108. Willis’ essay on sustainability unleashed a torrent of ideas that have been dammed up in my brain. In recent years, I have become a rabid anti-environmentalist. For many decades now environmentalists have promoted one eco-scare after another, all proven wrong in the end. The movement has become so mindless and corrupt that I automatically reject any notion they promote.

    I first became aware of their antics back in the 1970’s during the run-up to the Alaska oil pipeline, which was supposed to devastate the caribou herds, but instead seems to have greatly benefitted them. Remember the ozone hole that wasn’t? The acid rain that wasn’t? The poor endangered polar bears that are at all time high populations? The (fill in the blank) eco-disaster that never happened?

    Environmentalism is filled with nonsense concepts like “sustainability,” which Willis so expertly lampooned. The root idea of environmentalism is hatred of human beings — that humans are a plague upon the earth and damage the environment. I ask: Why is it that only human activity is considered damage to the environment? Why can’t humans eat bovine burgers, but lions can munch on antelope steaks? Why is it wrong for humans to log a forest, but okay for an elephant herd in Namibia to strip a forest bare? Why can’t humans build dams, but beavers can? Why can’t humans build mile long cities, but prairie dogs can?

    According to biologists, humans are descended from hominids who evolved on the African savannah. In short, the environment made us just like it made every other living creature on the planet. So why is it that only human activity is considered to be damage to the environment?

    What is “the environment,” anyway? Consider this tale. Through the patch of woods behind my property runs a small stream. Last spring, we had lots of rain, which swelled the stream, which created a wetlands of sorts in the drainage basin. For a time, the place was swarming with insects, frogs, and the birds which fed upon them. After seven weeks of no rain, the stream dried up and the wetlands vanished, as did all the creatures which depended on it. A large turtle even showed up in my backyard, the first time ever, apparently migrating toward my neighbors’ backyard pool. I relocated it to another nearby pond teeming with turtles.

    Which environment am I supposed to protect? The dried up mud flats or the teeming wetlands?

    Too many people seem to think the environment, including the climate, is static and unchanging. In truth, change is the only constant. The environment changes. All living creatures either adapt to their changing environment, or they adapt it to their needs. I declare that humans have as much right to impact the environment as any other living creature.

  109. Sustainability is like so many things … it is a continuum. Some things, like iron, are extremely abundant and hence the use of it is more sustainable than something like oil. Of course, oil is also somewhat sustainable as the CO2 is recycled into plants that will once again form oil over millions of years. Nothing is 100% sustainable.

    So, the real issue gets down to the time frame involved and the real need for items in the future. This is where human ingenuity comes into play. We will simply find something else to replace items that become scarce (those that are less sustainable). This is the fact that is lost on the scare-mongers. They cannot factor in technological change. So, instead of moving forward we should all huddle in our caves and pray to the gods that they provide bountiful resources.

  110. Luther Wu @ 3:35

    I think that this is what is meant by sustainable development, with or without capital letters. My ex wanted to live a sustainable lifestyle. To him it meant producing everything we needed, with as few ( and I mean few) purchased inputs as possible. He only saw the positives and completely ignored the negatives of living this way. For some background, we lived on a farm. He sold his larger tractors and bought a very old tractor that didn’t even have a cab on it. He sold his larger field implements because the smaller tractor wouldn’t pull them. However, it used to take him X hours to work the fields and now it took him 3 times X, because the implements were smaller and didn’t cover as much area as they did before. He finally gave up farming all together and planted all the fields to grass, to let the cattle “harvest” the grass instead of having to harvest the fields (which had been wheat, millet and hay fields) using machines.

    His goal was to have me fix meals with all the things our farm produced. We had our own meat, although it was sent out to be butchered, wrapped and frozen. He wanted to start doing that at home. We had a cow who provided milk, and I churned butter and separated cream. We had a large garden, but we still had to buy groceries at the store, and he hated us doing that. We didn’t live in the South or on the West Coast, so our garden was frequently hit with hail and grasshopper infestations.

    His desire was for us to buy everything used, from cars to clothes. He didn’t want artwork on the walls because seeing nature outside through the window was enough. He didn’t want us driving any more than was necessary and wanted me to quit my off the farm job for that reason, although I desperately needed that time away from him. He didn’t want the kids playing organized sports because we: a) had to drive there and b) it taught them that some people were better than others. He wanted all the kids to stay on the farm and develop their own farm oriented enterprise, to provide an income. He thought that tribal living was the way to live and wanted to start an eco village on the farm, with “like minded” people, although it was basically a commune with a fancy name.

    He couldn’t see that he was becoming a dictator and that his family was unraveling and revolting. Mother Earth was more important to him than his own family.

    I know it sounds like I am bashing my ex, and this isn’t the forum for that. My reason for writing this is that my ex ABSOLUTELY thought we should live this way and that I was being selfish, uncaring and “living a consumeristic American lifestyle” for disagreeing with him. But can you see the thought processes he was using? We were becoming isolated, different, with his goals dominating and everyone else ignored. It was extremely cult-like thinking.

    I saw many downfalls to his grand ideas, one of which is that living the way he wanted took an incredible amount of physical labor, and I was getting too old and achy to want to start adding that kind of physical labor to my daily life. I also thought that we were living too close to the edge for comfort- where an injury to him would seriously affect our standard of living; any financial downturn would be fatal; any weather event would be devastating. I lived this “Sustainable Lifestyle” for a number of years and it is only sustainable in good times. I cannot believe that this is the way the “powers to be” wants us to live. It sounds romantic from afar, but it is brutal up close.

  111. I agree with Tom, vboring, and some others.

    Development that is based upon materials which are not wasted or upon renewable resources is acceptably “sustainable”. If you build a house out of 20 trees, and replant 20 trees, then about the time the house is rebuilt, you’ll have more wood. You can melt down the glass and make new windows. You can recycle the metals. Farming that is sustainable maximizes yield while minimizing the depletion of the soil to maintain relatively constant yield.

    Sustainable development is careful about the amount of pollution we introduce to the environment, realizing that once you poison a water source, you don’t get it back without great pains, or sometimes at all.

    The argument that all “greens” are “warmists” and therefore we should allow developing nations to suffocate themselves in coal power pollution is a strawman, and shows weakness of mind. The fact is, developing nations have the best chance to maintain their environment in a state that is healthy for their constituents, as long as we, the polluted and developed world, continue to work on sustainable development technologies we can share with them. The technology exists for them to live without trashing their environment through their own industrial period. But that’s not what the developed world wants. It wants to keep doing things the cheap (destructive) way, but not in our own back yards.

    Environmentalists are NOT the skeptics’ adversary. Warmists are. There’s a big difference.

  112. @Tom

    “…You confuse materials with consumables. When you mine that iron ore for that shovel, what you want is iron. You take four kilograms of that iron and turn it into a shovel. You use the shovel for twenty years and at the end… you still have four kilograms of iron. Even if some of it has rusted, that oxide is still convertible back to iron, given the right process and enough energy.

    Oil and gas are fundamentally different. When you extract oil and gas, what you want is the energy potential in their chemical bonds. Once you’ve used that energy, you can’t get it back….”

    This looks like a mixture of confused thinking and weasel wording, in an effort to score a point.
    Depending on the timescale you are looking at, EVERYTHING is repeatable (sustainable?), right up to the heat death of the universe. In the case of your spade you put a large amount of energy in, to make the ore into Fe2, and then use it for a long time, until it rusts. Then you repeat the process.

    You can do exactly the same with oil and gas, if you want to – using it as an energy storage material. So what if you use more energy to make it than you can extract from it? That’s the case for all energy interchange. At the moment we don’t need to do this because we have lots of oil hanging around. We used to pick up meteoric iron in classical times and not care about ‘forcing future generations to dig mines and create furnaces’, and all the environmental damage that goes with them. I believe we will use chemical power sources for a long time – they have a lot of energy per unit mass – and so we’ll have to make the chemicals if they run out (which they show no sign of doing so yet). In practice, we’ll probably import methane from the Jupiter system – that’s within our technological capability right now, it’s just not economically viable. Yet.

    There IS no fundamental difference between ‘materials’ and ‘consumables’. It’s just a case of timescales and economic conditions, both of which are changing forces and impossible to second-guess. All you have done is consider an energy interchange over a period of 10 or so years, which favours the iron shovel, and then made up the idea that somehow the fact that the natural chemical process to reverse hydrocarbon oxidation takes a long time means that it is impossible. Oil and gas WILL be recreated naturally from the CO2 remnants of the oxidation process, and we are already able to do this artificially. All else is just time and economics…

  113. I think Willis has said all that can be said about sustainable development. However, there is an associated concept that is worth some thought. That concept is what I will call “steady state humanity” for lack of a better phrase.

    In the 1960s, some scientist argued that we will never be visited by extraterrestrials. His argument was very simple. Once humanity reaches a level of development that is just one or two clicks above our present level, it will attain the ability to provide the necessities for everyone and some really cool mind altering drugs will be available for everyone. (Apparently, one is to imagine safe fusion energy as one of the clicks.) Everyone will be born into a life of total satisfaction. Given such a life, all striving will end. The same reasoning applies to extraterrestrials. Before any group of beings attained the abilities needed for intergalactic travel they would have hit the satisfaction plateau which is endless, so we will never see them.

    If there is a serious point in this little story, I think it is that those who promote the idea of sustainable development are really thinking that there is such a thing as “steady state humanity.” However, if “steady state humanity” is possible then we have to do some serious unsustainable development before we get there. So, for the foreseeable future sustainable development requires unsustainable development.

  114. In the old days, one of the great truths was: “If it can’t be grown, it’s gotta be mined.” This applied to everthing consumed/used by man.

    The obvious exception was hookers, now that has been superceded by hookers and carbon credits.

  115. “You cannot talk about sustainability without talking about people, about politics, about power and control.” John Holdren*
    A more honest definition I have yet to read- He who controls the sustainable definition- controls the power and the people.
    *from a 1995 World Bank speech-The Meaning of Sustainability: 
Biogeophysical Aspects 
by John P. Holdren, Gretchen C. Daily, and Paul R. Ehrlich

  116. Warmarxists are turning language upside down — it’s astonishing if one thinks about it alittle:

    WORD ACTUAL MEANING

    progressive regressive
    diversity conformity
    education indoctrination/ignorance
    communication propaganda
    justice injustice/cronyism
    grassroots astroturf
    sustainable unsustainable
    green red
    consensus non-consensus
    ethical unethical
    NGO legalized mafia syndicate
    non-profit rent-seeking

    There are many more…

  117. A note to “a physicist:” I envy your patience. You can recommend to Willis that he read some literature on a topic so that his essays might at least acknowledge the accumulated wisdom of others, but he won’t do it. It is probably not that he does not want to read the literature, but that he has already moved on to his next drive-by essay.

    REPLY:I’m not sure patience is the word, blind faith dogma might be a better fit. Go ahead, argue with Willis on this topic, make my day – Anthony

  118. Sorry, my formatting above didn’t work. Mods might help…

    REPLY:
    Formatting lost, you probably used the wrong tags – can’t recover what we can’t see – Anthony

  119. A good summary measure of the resources that went into the production of a product is the cost of the product. Of course there are distortions due to government meddling with subsidies and taxes, but if you want to minimize resources expended, minimize the cost.

  120. Sustainability” is just a convenient way for eco-loons, warmenistas, and enviro-nazis to side-step such inconvenient issues as economics, logic and common sense. It is also very good for government funding and as a means of informing all concerned about how “environmentally concerned” one is, as well as how “concerned” for the future.

  121. “A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 4:15 am
    On a local scale, my father taught me that farmland regenerates on a scale of a few thousand years — a long but not immeasurably long time.”

    Obviously your father was aware of the Russell soil loss equation.But, as in most of your posts, your diatribe was long on flowery stereotypic definitions, but short on facts.

    Each “type” of soil regenerates at a highly predictable rate, roughly 2-10 tons a year. Since an acre/furrow/slice (6″/acre) weighs ~2,000,000 lbs, it can take up to 5,000 years or as little as 2,000 years to regenerate 6″ of topsoil. What sustainable folks don’t comprehend is that even virgin grassland loses soil, as in gullies, blowouts on hilltops (even in CRP set aside acres), indigenous weed patches that have no winter cover, etc. The massive coastal wetlands where the Mississippi outlets into the Gulf existed before mankind. Who caused that erosion of topsoil?

    But you are right in suggesting conservation. The goal in conservation is to limit erosion of the topsoil to the rate of regeneration of that particular soil determined by the soil loss equation. It has nothing to do with horse drawn implements or forcing the population of the world to eat grass, which is the goal of the UN committee on Agriculture. I can show you extensive examples of highly intensive operations that are actually gaining soil and increasing soil organic matter, one of the main ingredients in productive soils (think Mollisols in Iowa). In terms of maintaining productivity, these farms utilize energy in the form of chemicals, large implements, and nutrient replenishment. They actually have a lower energy footprint/unit of production than ecosystem evolution. So to alter this massive production system to a “sustainable” energy utilization in the terms loosely bandied about by the ecofascists is tentamount to commiting mass genocide on a global scale. Develop thorium reactors, reuse the current waste, and eat more chicken.
    But you don’t want to hear this, do you?

  122. I recently gave a talk along with Lord Monkton to a group of Maryland County officials concerned with the State’s new sustainability planning master plan (PlanMaryland) about to be adopted. The plan is about the growing of local food that doesn’t pollute, fair and equitable tiny housing, a return to the cities and a whole lot of bicycles and walking. Businesses will also need to fit the green future.
    At the heart of the Agenda 21/sustainability is a belief markets cannot be trusted to produce a sustainable or equitable outcome. The nearly approved PlanMaryland- states this quite clearly:
    
” in the absence of a set of policies and strategies for containing development and prioritizing the highest and best use of all land in the State, there is no reason to believe that market forces alone will produce development that is smart, sustainable, and balances the competing demands made on limited resources.”

    The pesky market forces are to be replaced by the enlightened guidance of sustainability commissioners who will decide how the interests of sustainability, equity and the environment are apportioned. Monetary evaluations are not a proper planning metric for the new Maryland that uses theThe Happy Planet Index as an example guide in how to value sustainable decisions. The happiest of countries include Guatemala, Laos, China and Viet Nam-while the middling happy include Haiti, Iran and Algeria. The most unhappiest of countries includes the US just edging out Nigeria and Tanzania. (When I first saw this I thought it was a joke- after reading it I recognized it as dangerous).

  123. A physicist says on December 22, 2011 at 5:13 am

    When we shape our plans for the future of our farm, do we think on timescales of 1000 years and more?

    Yes, indeed we do. …

    Naw, you don’t. There is no way for your decisions today to be binding on the next 30 generations down the road let alone anticipate what is to come your way and what they must do to cope with those unforeseen consequences!

    Can you point to any ‘letters of intent’ or specific directions on how to ‘handle your land’ dating back 150 years as to what your ‘practices’ and routines should be today beyond the universal generics of ‘plant in the spring’ and ‘harvest in the fall’?

    No; I’ll bet not.

    It was understood what should be done … be adaptable and survive, above all. This then entails many different choices and directions to ‘take the land’ and what may be planted on it or even ‘built’ upon it.

    But since we have seemingly lost ‘common sense’ today, can I say your generation seems to require ‘written specifics’ on the issue?

    .

  124. Willis:

    There is no doubt there is a finite amount of iron in the world. Have we reached “peak iron” yet? It’s written in stone (another thing that we’ve already reached peak production of, stone) somewhere. It’s just a matter of time.

    Unless, of course, we carefully plan for peak iron, and how much anybody should be allowed to own or consume.

    ~More Soylent Green!

  125. RE: Olen says: (December 22, 2011 at 7:25 am)
    “Sustainability is the capacity to endure.”

    Quite right. When you get past all the buzzwords; that is what it means. A ‘sustainable development’ must be able to endure indefinitely, for all practical purposes, without destroying or exhausting the basis of its own existence.

  126. A Physicist says: Our family’s Iowa farmland has been in our hands for 150 years, and it is still in good shape. When we shape our plans for the future of our farm, do we think on timescales of 1000 years and more? Yes, indeed we do. Are we foolish, Willis?

    Ferd Berple asks:

    Is there enough land for everyone in America to have a farm in Iowa? If not, then the practice of individuals owning farms is inherently unsustainable, as eventually there will be a shortage of farm land, which drives the price out of reach for new farmers.

    Ferd, you ask a good common-sense question, and one of the best common-sense answers (known to me) is the answer that Wendell Berry gives in his celebrated essay Solving for Pattern:

    In an organism, what is good for one part is good for another. What is good for the mind is good for the body; what is good for the arm is good for the heart. We know that sometimes a part may be sacrificed for the whole; a life may be saved by the amputation of an arm. But we also know that such remedies are desperate, irreversible, and destructive; it is impossible to improve the body by amputation. And such remedies do not imply a safe logic. As tendencies they are fatal: you cannot save your arm by the sacrifice of your life.

    Here the point is that family farms are but one organ within the living body that is the American way of life. And therefore, as Berry’s essay wisely reminds us, what is good for America’s family farms is good too for America in its entirety. It follows, as Berry’s essay also reminds us, that the ongoing destruction of family farming must be regarded as “desperate, irreversible, destructive, and unsafe” for America.

    Because if American farmers cease to conserve their land, with foresight on a timescale of centuries, who will take their place?

    That is the common-sense reason why Solving for Pattern is about more than farming, and is recommended reading for skeptic and scientist alike.

  127. Willis:

    1.
    If something exists then it is sustainable because it has been and is being sustained.
    2.
    If something ceases to exist then it was not sustainable because it was not sustained.
    3.
    If something is increasing (e.g. in use) then it is very sustainable and there is no indication that it may become unsustainable.
    4.
    If something is decreasing (e.g. in use) then its sustainability is declining so it may become unsustainable.
    5.
    Nothing can be sustained for infinite time (not even the existence of the Earth).

    And none of points 1 to 5 is governed by how much of the something exists. For example, flint knapping has become unsustainable because of lack of demand for flint tools and NOT because of lack of flint.

    Richard

  128. Breathing is not sustainable. Eventually the earth will run out of O2. In the carboniferous period atmospheric oxygen levels were almost double current levels. Currently, O2 levels are barely enough to support fire. Much lower and human and animal life is not possible.

    We need to act now to prevent future O2 loss for future generations. All use of O2 needs to be heavily taxed and banned. We need to have 20% reduction in O2 use by 2020 and ZERO OXYGEN FOOTPRINT by 2050.

  129. Yes, everything we do increases the entropy of the universe. LOL. Assuming the second law of thermodynamics is applicable to the universe. That’s actually a pretty big assumption given the second law pertains to closed systems AND was never intended for systems large enough for the weak force of gravity to be anything more than a negligible influence. The solar system and the universe is evidence that order can arise from chaos, that the second law of thermodynamics is not applicable to such systems. I read the book that’s a precursor to “sustainability”, “Entropy: A New World View” (ISBN 0-670-29717-8), back in the 80’s. Well, more precisely, I read about 3/4 of it, I just couldn’t stomach any more of it.

    Mr. Wingo did an excellent job in his recent post dispelling some of these sustainability myths:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/10/the-true-failure-of-durban/

  130. Nothing is sustainable. Life itself is not sustainable, either in the individual sense, or in the generic sense. The fact of living increases entropy, as does making clothing, housing and cooking food. You build more complex things at the expense of breaking down others.

    This fact of existence is not limited to life. Even the Sun builds complex elements by destroying others.

    The best you can hope for is to not pollute too much during your existence.

  131. I mean, where are the “peak iron” zealots when we need them?

    They’re out in Desert Center, backfilling Kaiser’s Eagle Mountain mine with Los Angeles trash.

  132. I would like to close-out my participation on this thread-topic today (I have things to do!) with the motto appearing on the Zerohedge.com website masthead FWIW:

    On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

    .

  133. Additionally, a physicist, as someone reported in a post above, Maurice Strong, etal. ad infinitum, propose a meatless diet, as the conversion of plants into meat is “inefficient” in undefinable global terms (ignores the fact that the vast majority of arable land is unsuited to any other agronomic practice but herding). But recent data has shown that vegans have a higher, albiet mostly insignificant mortality from many forms of cancer (read to the bottom). http://veganhealth.org/articles/cancer

    Other data has determined that consumption of carbohydrates increases cancer.

    http://www.carbohydratescankill.com/901/carbohydrates-cancer-prospect

    Since mankind evolved as hunter/gatherers, I’m sure you can connect the dots…..

    BTW, this data ( and an extensive additional abundance) were collected at the MDA Anderson Cancer center, where my wife underwent radiation treatment for breast cancer. She feels great eating a low carb diet (<50 net mgs./day). She'll probably outlive me as the only take-home fact I'm willing to subscribe to revolves around an abundance of dietary red wine.

  134. A physicist says:
    “Because if American farmers cease to conserve their land, with foresight on a timescale of centuries, who will take their place?”

    You have no technological component in your rationale. It wasn’t till the mid 1940s that fully 50% of the land tilled in the US switched from horse drawn to tractors (an important point because perhaps 40% of all agriculture farmland used i the US at the turn of the 20th century was to provide food for the urban and rural horse population.

    Corn and wheat yield yields per acre are up 300 to 350% since 1950 and no signs of slowing down. A cow now produces 4X the milk as one did in 1970.

    Increasing agriculture efficiencies are the reason our forests and other wild lands have been increasing. I can see no better stewardship than a continuing drive to use the least land possible for agriculture production-seems to me we are doing a great job- all while slashing the cost of food than consumed nearly 40% of the average family budget in the 1940s and less than 10% today. A large part of the Depression era Federal and State programs were actually directed at getting people off land with soils so poor they should have never been farmed in the first place. However that can only happen if the remaining prime soils grow more food per acre.

    It is doubtful with the pace of technology in a hundred years -if not killed by sustainability ideology- will even be recognizable. We are already seeing large parts of the fresh vegetable market being replaced with hydroponics.

    We have all seen the link between prosperity and energy use– there is another- the necessity of less than 5% of the workforce to be involved in agriculture.

  135. Sustainable development is to true development
    as a people’s republic is to a true republic:
    namely, as a strait jacket is to a dinner jacket.

  136. Judy F. says:
    December 22, 2011 at 7:41 am
    Mother Earth was more important to him than his own family.
    ______________________
    Dollar to donut his inspiration was the News

  137. A physicist says: On a local scale, my father taught me that farmland regenerates on a scale of a few thousand years — a long but not immeasurably long time.”

    Tim Clark says: Obviously your father was aware of the Russell soil loss equation. … Develop thorium reactors, reuse the current waste, and eat more chicken. But you don’t want to hear this, do you?

    Tim, you are absolutely right that my father was thoroughly grounded in soil science … his degree (from Iowa State) was in agricultural engineering, and he knew every kind of soil not only on our farm, but all around the county.

    For my father every hill, creek, tree-stand, pond, prairie, and glacial erratic boulder had ten-thousand-year story to tell, and he dearly loved to share those stories with his family, friends, and Sunday-school classes.

    As for thorium reactors, your reference made me LOL — because WUWT’s arch-devil James Hansen is fond of thorium reactors too (beginning minute 7:55). Not that James Hansen regards thorium reactors as perfectly safe, but rather he appreciates that thorium reactors are a far less dangerous energy source (in the long run) than coal-fired power plants.

    It’s hugely enjoyable to see you and Hansen ending up on the same page (for reasons that I regard as excellent).

    So Tim, your excellent post was wrong only in saying “But you don’t want to hear this, do you?”

    Thank you for inspiring those wonderful memories of my father’s wise teachings, and for advocating a global energy path-forward that is so strikingly similar to James Hansen’s.

  138. Philip Peake says:
    December 22, 2011 at 8:22 am
    The best you can hope for is to not pollute too much during your existence.

    One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Wasn’t O2 at one time a planetary waste product that threatened all life? What do plants say about dung? Pollution or nutrient?

  139. Tim Clark says:
    December 22, 2011 at 7:56 am

    A physicist, I agree with Tim Clark. His post is directed at you. Do you care to respond cogently to the substance of his post?

  140. Another similar bugbear of mine: ‘forward thinking’ e.g. in the phrase ‘forward thinking policies’.

  141. “A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 8:35 am
    It’s hugely enjoyable to see you and Hansen ending up on the same page (for reasons that I regard as excellent).”

    Stick around long enough, and the unemotional, non-ideological logic espoused by us denialists may rub off.

    Sorry to hear about Iowa State though.

    Go U of A Hogs!!!!

  142. I am all for developing our resources in a sustainable way. I am NOT for bolting our policies to a UN Agenda 21 committee.

  143. What I construe from the words:” sustainable development” is a rate constant. Is the rate of change sustainable? As climate can be described as a non-linear, non-equilibrium oscillatory system, so too, development carries many of the same characteristics. Culture changes: Tevia and the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on The Roof. Economics change from paradigm to paradigm. Society changes how it values items, work, people. Sustainable in my mind means a temporary linear trajectory until a perturbance followed by disorder and chaos, a transition and the emergence of a new sustainable paradigm. The Birth & Death of the Soviet Union was a sustainable paradigm until all the Bolsheviks died off, then a death spiral, chaos, transition and the emergence of a new order is emerging: sustainable, for the time being.
    What is so uncomfortable is the transition, not knowing what is in the immediate future. When in one sustainable paradigm, our most recent run up to a banking collapse, the immediate future could be “predicted.” Of course it couldn’t, but the trajectory seemed sustainable: i.e., the rate of change would go on and on and on. It didn’t. In the CO2 global warming paradigm, the trajectory was each nation buying into the carbon tax paradigm until a major perturbance: in this case, Climategate 1.0 and the failure at Copenhagen, 2009. We are in transition now, and it is uncomfortable. Many ideas, and sustainable development is just one, like some flotsam from the wreckage of AGW is grasped to keep afloat in the current stormy sea with its disinformation, etc. What emerges after this tempest has passed, I have no clue. A new paradigm, it too viewed as sustainable until….

  144. I’ve thought the same thing.Nothing is sustainable. But some things require a lot less work to get work out of it.

    At the end of the day, there are two ways to measure something – Financial ROI and Net Energy ratio. Both are really about thermodynamic availability.

  145. The photo of the rusty spade shows just why the spade cannot be recycled for ever – it will eventually end up as atoms of Ferrous Oxide floating around the environment.

    However, to answer the question, What is sustainable?, how about a wooden spade? Grown from sustainable trees that when harvested are replaced by 3 new trees, they suck carbon from the atmosphere and reduce global warming. Since more trees are being replaced than used, they would start to be used for everything else – from tractor wheels to engines, from windturbine blades to the magnets that power their generators, from tv screens to microprocessors. Nothing is impossible for this wonderful sustainable resource.

  146. David says: A physicist, I agree with Tim Clark. His post is directed at you. Do you care to respond cogently to the substance of his post?

    Sometimes Anthony delays my responses, but usually they appear eventually; my best effort at a “cogent” response to Tim Clark appeared above. So please let me add to that post (and I think speak for everyone) only this one thing: my very best wishes for the health of Tim’s wife.

    As for economic, moral, and scientific issues, I am broadly in agreement with the vigorous writings of farmer Wendell Berry with regard to sustainability, and of scientist James Hansen with regard to energy policy (for details, see the links supplied above).

    And finally, like most folks on WUWT (Willis Eschenbach in particular) I have no great regard for lengthy mushy policy papers written by UN bureaucrats. Life’s too serious, too fun, and too short!   :)

    [Posting time is usually proportional to the number of moderators’ mice available at any given time. 8<) Robt]

  147. Certainly, I think we should live as lightly as possible on this marvelous planet.

    No you don’t.

    And neither do I.

    And neither does anyone else.

    Some people think that other people should live exactly as they wish them to. They may figure that other people should stop doing things that they either consider unimportant, or actively disapprove of, and excuse that desire for control under “you need to live lightly”. The more virtuous might believe in doing what they want to do, and meeting their wants and needs, with as little impact as can be achieved without too greatly limiting what they consider to be their own quality of life. But nobody believes that they should live as lightly as possible. Even trappist monks aren’t doing that, and there are very damn few people that choose to live like they do.

    “As lighlty as possible” is one of those absolutist platitudes that should be binned next to “Sustainable Development”.

  148. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Tim Clark…Thank you for… advocating a global energy path-forward that is so strikingly similar to James Hansen’s.
    _______________________
    James Hansen appears in many photos wearing a hat.
    I’m reasonably certain that Tim has worn a hat, too.

    You see how easy it is?

  149. Maurizio Morabito (omnologos) says:

    Every (used) condom is thousands of people being prevented from being born, and their children and grandchildren etc etc. It’s a crime against intergenerational justice. /sarc

    The Monty Python take:

  150. Wow, what a lot of straw men packed into one post.

    Sustainable living isn’t about belief in eternal resources – that’s the blithely optimistic mindset of the people who want to burn, baby burn. Talk about projection.

    The impoverished practise sustainable living by necessity. You don’t waste what you can’t afford to. You don’t have to be a greenie to know the value of insuring against the future.

    Whether you believe it or not (that doesn’t matter for this point), climate change is projected to hit poorer countries much harder than affluent ones. Wealthier, developed countries would be better placed to adapt. Communities on the edge of subsistence would do it much tougher. And it’s poor countries who most vehemently want an international agreement on emissions controls. What’s that? Now they’re self-interested and gaming the UN, are they? Crikey, that was a quick turnaround. How much are we supposed to care, exactly? It’s so easy to lose the thread….

    So let’s just make them healthy, affluent societies, right? Oh yeah, that’s been the cry for a century before global warming was an issue, and the distance between poor and wealthy countries is phenomenally greater than ever. But climate change cynics really truly rooly care about these people. They’re not using their hardship as a political football like the activists do, noooo.

    Willis is telling us that we either forget emissions policy or make people starve. Wow. Just wow. What an amazingly straightforward dichotomy that is. Is it really that simple? There’s no way you can mandate emissions regulations without killing people. Well, it’s on a blog so it must be true.

    The cynicism here is lamentable but understandable, but the faux concern for the world’s destitute is nauseating. Please don’t.

  151. 1DandyTroll says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Why have we been able to mine one of the scarcest metals for some 7000 years and still we’re not running low?

    Hey, Dandy, back to trolling I see. In answer to your question, it’s because

    a) for about the first 6,800 of those years there weren’t many of us, and

    b) the world is a big place, and

    c) when we start to run low we use something else. Who would have guessed that copper communication cables could be replaced by glass cables?

    w.

  152. Ken Hall says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Sustainable forestry is possible. So is sustainable farming. You get the plants and animals to reproduce and replace themselves. Using a finite and irreplaceable resource until it is all gone, is not sustainable.

    You miss the point. You can only farm sustainably with sustainable shovels … and shovels aren’t sustainable.

    w.

  153. Sustainable is time frame dependent. The Sun and Earth and wind will also pass away in a while, quite a while. Sustainability has always been defined in terms of our lack of knowledge of future resources and future technology, which we always estimate poorly. So, everything is sustainable for some unknown period of time and nothing is sustainable in some other period of time. ( If someone else said this, I am sorry, but I did not read all 176 of the other posts.)

  154. Roger Carr says:
    December 22, 2011 at 1:56 am

    You are thinking too narrowly, Willis. Sustainable development is bigger than leaving some in the ground for the kids

    Sustainable development is working the land so that it becomes increasingly productive. It is using iron ore, nickel and cadmium (to use your examples) to build to go to the stars to get more — and that is exactly what the best of the breed are doing.

    TimTheToolMan says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:44 am

    Roger writes

    “You are thinking too narrowly, Willis. Sustainable development is bigger than leaving some in the ground for the kids”

    And is spot on. Its fairly obvious that use of fossil fuels is not sustainable unless they are used as a stepping stone to some other technology.

    In other words, Roger, there’s nothing that’s sustainable except building spaceships, and Tim, you agree? Just trying to clarify your position. If that’s it, it’s very much like mine—I say nothing is sustainable, and you say only building spaceships might be sustainable … but since building spaceships is only about 0.0001% of what humans do, we’re not far apart.

    w.

  155. “Sustainable development” is simply a weasel-term for “anything other than Capitalism”. It’s the latest attempt to put lipstick on the Marxist/Communist/Socialist pig.

  156. The word “sustainable” belongs in the same genre as the phrase “climate change.” The constructs are seemingly totally meaningful, yet totally meaningless utterances that might be expected from the caterpillar with the bong in Alice-in-Wonderland. They are useful constructs in that they can be used by the socialists to “engineer” the culture in any way that they choose to take it.

    That said, wood and trees get pretty close to being truely sustainable.

  157. ‘Sustainability’ is something dreamt up by elites living comfortable, secure lives in highly urbanised environments, knowing full well that what they preach for the rest of the world is not something they will ever do themselves.
    The description by Judy F above (December 22, 2011 at 7:41 am) serves very well to illustrate this.
    It always amazes me that so many professional feminists in the ‘green’ and ‘environmental’ movements seem to be wishing for nothing better for themselves and their daughters than the life of drudgery experienced by so many of us in the UK well into the middle of the last century.

    I can promise those ladies – you won’t have time to go to meetings or swan off to nice resort when you have to spend your whole day to keep the fire burning in the kitchen, wash the clothes of your family by hand, scrub and sweep the floors by hand and trot out to get groceries every day because there’s no fridge nor freezer. And you still have to cook the food. Oh – and imagine doing the washing-up without – no, not a dishwasher, but without ordinary washing-up liquid.
    And you spend the evenings (no telly, no PC, no iPhone, ordinary landline phone at the street corner) ‘sustaining’ the clothing of your family, like, darning socks, trousers, turning cuffs on shirts etc …
    Yep, totally sustainable progress, and knowledge and intelligence, which could help produce new technologies, totally wasted on ‘sustainability’.

    But there’s more:
    both the idea we must and can ‘stop’ climate from changing, as well as this sustainability, are signs of dangerously closed minds, who have given up on evolution both in the usual meaning as well as in cultural meaning. Everything must stay just as it is now, with a few billion people less.
    This all speaks of their total fear – of change, of weather, of nature.
    Actually, we should pity them.

  158. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Willis Eschenbach quotes the Brundtland Report:

    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Willis, one of the main tenets of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (the STEM professions) is “There’s always someone smarter than you.” The point being, you have to figure out who those people are, and study their best work.

    So maybe we all can learn more, and learn faster, not by cherry-picking the worst analyses of sustainable development, but by studying the best analyses?

    I’d be glad to, A physicist … I just couldn’t find any good analyses of the subject, much less “best analyses”. I’m sure there are people out there smarter than me … but I can’t find where they have analyzed the term “sustainable development”.

    I also note that you are playing your usual game, throwing out crappy, ill-formed ideas without even an attempt at a citation. If you want me to believe that there are some kind of great analyses of sustainability, you’ll have to cite chapter and verse.

    For example, I definitely don’t agree with all that Wendell Berry writes, but any person who wants to learn more — and think more — about the sobering challenges associated to sustainable development is far better off studying Wendell Berry’s writings, than reading reports written by UN bureaucrats. That much is obvious, eh?

    Having read Wendell Berry extensively over the last forty years or so, I haven’t a clue what you are on about. Maybe Wendell said something about mining steel, but where and what are you referring to? Cite chapter and verse and give us a quote to chew on. A vague hand-wave in the direction of a man’s entire life’s work is meaningless.

    Here are the problems, “A”. (You don’t mind if I call you by your first name?) First, we have no useable definition of “sustainable”. Second, we have no idea which of Wendell Berry’s thoughts about sustainability you approve of, and which you think are wrong. Third, I’m not all that interested in the “sobering challenges” seen by Wendell Berry. I’m more interested in the UN/NGO plans to change the planet’s entire economic system based on their warped idea of “sustainable development”, whatever they mean by that today.

    w.

    PS—STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. There’s no “medicine” in it, not enough “M”s. Nice try, though, it actually made you sound intelligent for a moment.

  159. John West says:

    “The solar system and the universe is evidence that order can arise from chaos, that the second law of thermodynamics is not applicable to such systems.”

    I don’t know about that, seems pretty chaotic to me, over the long haul at least. The rules (that we think we know of) by which it seems to operate do allow for both it and us to exist, for now anyway. And those rules seem to have some order to them. Change just one small factor though, like the expansion rate of the universe or the energy levels occupied by electrons within the atom and there would be nothing here. Antropomorphic theory or intelligent design, take your pick. Or I guess probability theory in a multiverse could get us here. Easier to believe in God, I should think.

  160. A physicist –

    On a local scale, my father taught me that farmland regenerates on a scale of a few thousand years

    I am a farmer myself. My own father got some (very cheap and large) areas in 1976 where nothing but some wild herbs and puny pines could grow. The first years almost nothing grew there.

    Fast forward now. Soil from these fields is now able to produce almost as the other places around which were producing long before.

    Give me 30 years and I terraform whatever unproductive fields you have.

  161. Imagine going to your doctor for a routine physical and having him telling you “I need to amputate your arm”. You ask why. He says: Well, it’s a dangerous world. You could cut your arm. And if you cut your arm it could get infected. And if your arm gets infected we could become unable to control the infection. In a worst case scenario, we might have to amputate the arm. If we amputate now, this situation will be impossible.

    So much of the greens’ “reasoning” reminds me of this prophylactic amputation. Why impose on ourselves policies at least as bad as what *could* happen if we continue business-as-usual? Even worse, they they argue that such policies are demanded by their canonized “precautionary principle”.

  162. “Sustainable” is an illusion. Eco systems appear to be sustainable only over the medium term. But in reality, no population of organism is sustainable. Rabbits exploit their environment, and without preditors would reproduce themselves into collapse as they exceed the carrying capacity of their environment. Then collapse in numbers (meaning huge numbers of individuals starve to death.) until the population drops to a very low percent of the previous high (as much as a 90% cull rate, extinction at 100%).

    Entire ecosystems work under that same premise, especially those at the top of the food chain. Thus populations go through boom and bust cycles, which over generations appears sustainable, but on the low level of the individuals is a brutal struggle for life.

    But even middle term there is no sustainable population because the environment changes, and alters the rules of the game for populations by changing the carrying capacity. Changes in the environment pulls the rug out from under populations. Thus only a small subgroup of a population will make it past such changes as a new species evolves.

    Thus this romantic notion of creating a sustainable society (no growth) is an unattainable pipe dream. Sustainable development (growth) is worse, it’s an oxymoron. Doesn’t matter how smart we think we are, we cannot defy the laws of physics.

  163. Re Sustainable someone else may have made this point allready but:

    The universe is a puzzle box

    you need fire to harden wood and bone tools to et you work with copper then bronze which lets you dig surface deposits of Iron and coal which lets you make steel that allows you to drill oil and gas which in turn gives you the rescource base to buid nuclear power plants and computers which will eventually allow you to mine the moon and then the asteroids and so forth and so on each level of technology opens the door to the next the only way to fail is to stop advancing to deny the benifits of hich tech and only worry about the possible problems. I have faith we will continue to advance maybe not in the US or the west but eventually some group will walk on the moon again and eventually someone will be able to tell us about living on those eartlike planets kepler keeps finding

    Just my 2 cents John G

  164. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 5:13 am

    Willis Eschenbach quotes the UN’s Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Willis, as an example of what “sustainable development” really means — written not by UN bureaucrats but by a practicing farmer, committed Baptist, and authentic American individualist — please let me commend to your attention, and to the attention of WUWT readers, Wendell Berry’s celebrated essay Solving for Pattern.

    Berry is always worth reading. However, since he didn’t use the words “sustainable” or “development” in his essay, it is not clear what relevance that has to the common use of the term “sustainable development”, and how it makes no sense the way the UN uses it.

    Our family’s Iowa farmland has been in our hands for 150 years, and it is still in good shape. When we shape our plans for the future of our farm, do we think on timescales of 1000 years and more?

    Yes, indeed we do.

    A thousand years? You are trying to convince us you have a one thousand year planning horizon for your farm?

    Thats … um … er … well … that’s wonderful, A. What will be the main power source of the farm in the year 3011? Will your shovels be made out of renewable iron?

    Are we foolish, Willis?

    I can’t speak for the rest of your family, but you sure seem to be. You go on and on without providing a usable definition of “sustainable development”. You seem to enjoy hand-waving about Wendell Berry, but you haven’t said what it is that you like about his thoughts. Now you are claiming you have some clue about what your farm will look like a full millennium from now … but you still haven’t dealt with the fact that iron ore is non-renewable. Seems kinda foolish to me …

    w.

    PS—My problem with Berry is that he tends to be rhapsodic and poetic, the man can write, but he’s not necessarily all that logical. For example, from your citation:

    What is good for the water is good for the ground, what is good for the ground is good for the plants, what is good for the plants is good for animals, what is good for animals is good for people, what is good for people is good for the air, what is good for the air is good for the water. And vice versa.

    Well, that all sounds romantic and New Age, but … no. What is good for the plants is not necessarily good for the water, that’s the problem. Organic fertilizer is great for plants, but you really don’t want it in your drinking water. Good for the plants … bad for the water. I’m sure you can think of other examples.

  165. John West says:

    “The solar system and the universe is evidence that order can arise from chaos, that the second law of thermodynamics is not applicable to such systems.”

    Sorry John, but it doesn’t work that way. The second law of physics requires that any order you see today must have existed at the time universe was born. It’s the law of entropy. In a closed system order does not increase without a commensurate reduction in order from elsewhere in the closed system. It can also be called the law of conservation of information where we define information as order. Two of the greatest living physicists today, Leonard Susskin and Stephen Hawking, along with a cadre of kibbutzers on both sides, argued over whether the information in an encyclopedia could be permanently destroyed by dropping it into a black hole. Neither argued that it be destroyed by some more mundane chaotic event like being burned in blast furnace. In principle all the information would still be present in the exact positions and velocities of the ash and smoke molecules. It would be practically lost but not theorectically lost. This is the law of conservation of information illustrated and defended by top physicists. The argument was about whether the information would be lost forever to the outside universe should the destruction occur by falling into a black hole. After 10 years Hawking conceded that even in that case the information would not be lost it would exit the black hole in the form of Hawking radiation which is the moral equivalent of smoke from a fire on the other side.

    You either misunderstand the second law or you misunderstand the nature of the universe. Order can only increase if it is imported from outside the system under consideration. For order to have increased in the universe over time it must have been imported from outside the universe. Plenty of religious folk will be happy to say that outside source is God. Personally I don’t think God needed to tinker with his creation so, as Einstein went to his grave believing, we live in a clockwork universe of cause and effect that God wound up and set in motion. If there’s any chaos in the universe I think it might be confined to free will if such a thing as free will really exists.

  166. Speaking of sustainability…Steve Jobs, media darling and Wall Streets Golden Boy made most of his fortune creating devices that will be obsolete in 6 months…

  167. When I hear reference to sustainable, i immediately expect a conversation on green self righteousness.
    If a person has to announce their own virtue, they probablly lack virtue.
    Now we enter an era of light pollution. We are polluting the evening skies with fugitive light form parking lots and cities.

  168. David says:
    December 22, 2011 at 7:43 am

    … The argument that all “greens” are “warmists” and therefore we should allow developing nations to suffocate themselves in coal power pollution is a strawman, and shows weakness of mind.

    Since no one here has made that argument, your claim is a strawman, and shows weakness of mind …

    See how easy it is to prove something when all one needs is assertion?

    More to the point, your arrogance in thinking that you have either the brains or the right to tell other nations what kind of power plants “we should allow” them to use is astonishing.

    w.

  169. I’m wondering, when my Irish ancestors were cutting peat did some busybody come up and pester them about not using too much as future generations would be in need of this fuel source?

  170. Matt Skaggs says:
    December 22, 2011 at 7:52 am

    A note to “a physicist:” I envy your patience. You can recommend to Willis that he read some literature on a topic so that his essays might at least acknowledge the accumulated wisdom of others, but he won’t do it.

    Bull.

    First, “A physicist” just waved his hands at Wendell Berry, he didn’t recommend that I read some literature as you speciously claim. He’s as parsimonious with his citatations as a man can be.

    Second, if you had bothered to follow the interchange, you’d have realized that I’ve been reading Wendell Berry all my life, I have a high regard for him.

    So tell me, Matt … exactly which “literature on the topic” did “a physicist” recommend, that I refused to read? Near as I can tell, he recommended the same amount of literature you recommended.

    That would be “none”, Bob …

    w.

  171. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 8:07 am

    … Ferd, you ask a good common-sense question, and one of the best common-sense answers (known to me) is the answer that Wendell Berry gives in his celebrated essay Solving for Pattern:

    In an organism, what is good for one part is good for another. What is good for the mind is good for the body; what is good for the arm is good for the heart. We know that sometimes a part may be sacrificed for the whole; a life may be saved by the amputation of an arm. But we also know that such remedies are desperate, irreversible, and destructive; it is impossible to improve the body by amputation. And such remedies do not imply a safe logic. As tendencies they are fatal: you cannot save your arm by the sacrifice of your life.

    Here the point is that family farms are but one organ within the living body that is the American way of life. And therefore, as Berry’s essay wisely reminds us, what is good for America’s family farms is good too for America in its entirety.

    Gosh … let me see if I can follow your logic.

    Corporate rent-seekers make up a large percentage of the American farm ownership these days. And by your logic above, since they are part of America, what’s good for rent-seeking corporate farmers is good for America in its entirety. So we should increase the farm subsidies to the corporations.

    How’m I doing so far? Like I said, Wendell Berry is long on poetry and love for the land, and I appreciate and honor him greatly for that.

    Regarding logic, however, he’s not so strong …

    w.

  172. Willis, you have a real gift for bringing a smile to my face … `cuz ain’t Wendell Berry himself now 77 years old, and still doing the work of three ordinary men (farmer, essayist, poet)?

    Wendell’s belief in sustainability evidently is doing him no harm … heck, most of us scarcely hope to be even half as lively at age 77 as Wendell is.

    So purely on the evidence, Wendell’s sustainability practices not only have been mighty good for his farmland, they’ve been mighty good for Wendell himself too.   :)

    It’s mighty instructive to search Google’s N-Gram Viewer for usage of “sustainability, sustainable development“; these two n-grams have come into widespread use only since 1980 or so (an earlier, less-used, mainly military variant is “sustainment”). And when we search the early 1980s literature with Google Books, we verify that Wendell Berry’s name is prominently associated with these terms.

    And finally, Google Books shows us that Wendell Berry uses the words “sustain”, “sustainability” and “sustainment” commonly in his own writings … along with another Wendell Barry favorite word: “stewardship”.

    So anyone who’s been wondering what these words mean needs only to consult the writings by and about Wendell Berry … who is (IMHO) a true American original and a national treasure.

  173. Seriously Willis (since your last post overlapped with mine), if you’re going to claim for yourself such a high regard for Wendell Berry, why don’t you simply quote Wendell’s views regarding sustainable development?

    Instead you’ve posted quotes from boring UN bureaucrats, along with a cartoon that outright mocks four of Wendell Berry’s most cherished values clean air, pure water, healthy exercise, and organic farming methods.

    In my opinion, WUWT folks would be far better off reading for themselves what Wendell Berry has to say about sustainability.

  174. I like this post Willis. You’ve brought up some interesting notions– many of which I’ve thought long and hard about for many decades. Actually, in the very very long view of things you’re right– nothing is sustainable as times arrow and entropy certainly move in only one way across this universe and eventually all the useful energy will be gone, and our universe will be cold and quiet. But there may be other universe’s in this multiverse of ours, so somewhere else life and consciousness will likely carry one.

    But to you point about sustainability. The lessons we can learn from nature are enormous. Somehow, for hundreds of millions of years the earth has found a way to sustain life. Despite meteor stikes and great extinctions, snowball earth’s and massive volcansim, life has found a way. Life has been sustainable. What lessons can we take from nature as to how to conduct our own life and civilizations?
    1) Use only what you really need. Excesses of use lead to all sorts of imbalances. Lions don’t kill every gazelle. If they did, both would go extinct.
    2) Use energy that is as closely associated with contemporary solar energy as possible. Wind, direct solar, food, etc. are all examples of “current solar” energy. This is in direct contrast to “old solar” in the forms of fossil fuels.
    3) Build for reuse, and reuse to build. Everything that is manufactured should have a high degree of reusablility and everything that is manufactured should be made as much as possible from reused materials versus “virgin” materials. This is the way nature has done it for millions of years and it has worked pretty darn well.

    Bottom line: Life on Earth (and in this universe) might not be infinitely sustainable, as entropy will eventually have it’s way, but for all practical puposes, if we watch the methods nature has evolved, we can learn how to be practical sustainable in our lives and in our civilizaitons.
    2)

  175. There is nothing more dangerous than a government policy to meet a goal that no-one can define. Winners and losers in any such system are dictated by those controlling the definition.

    What is troubling is that critical infrastructure and food security matters may be put in the hands of social scientists and crusading english majors in the name of sustainability. To those commentors here that think sustainability is about common sense soil erosion controls. Perhaps this will wake you up- What is Sustainable Agriculture?http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/concept.htm
    “In addition to strategies for preserving natural resources and changing production practices, sustainable agriculture requires a commitment to changing public policies, economic institutions, and social values. Strategies for change must take into account the complex, reciprocal and ever-changing relationship between agricultural production and the broader society”
    To attain sustainable agriculture we must make “specific and concentrated efforts to alter specific policies or practices, to the longer-term tasks of reforming key institutions, rethinking economic priorities, and challenging widely-held social values.” And then the author goes completely off the rails linking to locavore issues, labor organizing and meeting spiritual needs. But most importantly sustainability was about giving more money to UC Davis to guide us to this green future.

    If UC Davis’s definition of sustainable agriculture prevails over modern agriculture practices we may all end up hungry- but we will all be equally hungry. Consider resistance to “sustainability” sustainable on my part.

  176. Thanks Willis,

    Yes, it is entropy we would seem to want to avoid. And yes, it can be done. It just takes some international government “seed”‘ investment in the perpetual motion machines industry; A small tax on the rich would fund it so it would be fiscally sustainable. /sarc

  177. Willis Eschenbach says:
    December 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Wow! “A Physicist’s” argument is a classic example of the fallacy of composition, assuming that characteristics of the parts are also characteristics of the whole. Did Wendell go to college? Where?

  178. Willis,

    I believe you are completely wrong about the source of the modern usage of the word “sustainable” – it actually comes from Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot who was one of the early visionaries of the more radical green sustainable movement. It is based on agrarian socialism and is a political philosophy rather than anything to do with the scientific use of the word “sustainable”.

    In a scientific sense, there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, so ultimately nothing is sustainable and even the sun will die eventually.

  179. “1) Use only what you really need. Excesses of use lead to all sorts of imbalances. Lions don’t kill every gazelle. If they did, both would go extinct.”

    A lion does not count the number of gazelle, and the number of lions and then descide to not kill and go hungary instead if the gazelle numbers are too low for their population. Lions don’t calculate what their carrying capacity is on any given day.

    Lions get hungry and hunt. Why they don’t go extinct is because at some point the population of lions gets too big for the number of gazelles, which means some lion cubs starve to death.

    Sustainability in the natural ecosystem is cycles of boom and bust.

  180. reposting this from the Hansen arrested development thread special for A Physicist:

    A physicist;
    And IMHO, it’s very good to see that science and skepticism are evolving toward this natural mutual accommodation! :)>>>>

    That’s probably the biggest load of total bunk you’ve posted in this thread so far.

    Your assumption that skepticism isn’t even part of science in the first place, that it is some sort of other discipline or process, and that skepticism is moving toward an “accomodation” with science is ignorant and arrogant beyond belief. But what else should we expect of someone who calls themselves a physicist, but clearly doesn’t know SFA about physics or science? What else should we expect from someone who takes ridiculous positions, and rather than respond to the criticisms with facts and logic, simply changes the subject, or comes up with that most devastating or remarks, “what’s the problem?”

    You sir are a charlatan attempting to present yourself as some sort of middle ground proponant, but your conduct reveals what you are. A spin doctor advocate for magic dressed up as science who understands neither the magic nor the science.

  181. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 11:45 am

    “It’s mighty instructive to search Google’s N-Gram Viewer for usage of “sustainability, sustainable development“; these two n-grams have come into widespread use only since 1980 or so (an earlier, less-used, mainly military variant is “sustainment”). And when we search the early 1980s literature with Google Books, we verify that Wendell Berry’s name is prominently associated with these terms.

    And finally, Google Books shows us that Wendell Berry uses the words “sustain”, “sustainability” and “sustainment” commonly in his own writings … along with another Wendell Barry favorite word: “stewardship”.

    So anyone who’s been wondering what these words mean needs only to consult the writings by and about Wendell Berry … who is (IMHO) a true American original and a national treasure.”

    Willis, I think this is about all you can expect from “A Physicist” by way of citation.

    Yes, “A P,” Berry does use the word ‘sustain’ in some of his writings but as long as you do not give an actual citation then we do not know whether that word occurs in a sentence such as “How am I going to sustain my income if I continue writing these crappy books?” See, citations are to sentences or paragraphs not to words. The sentence is the basic unit of meaning in an article, book, or any discursive writing. In poetry it is different. I know a poet, who I try to avoid, who wrote a poem consisting of only the word ‘mother’ repeated an indefinitely large number of times.

  182. R gates says, “But to you point about sustainability. The lessons we can learn from nature are enormous. Somehow, for hundreds of millions of years the earth has found a way to sustain life. Despite meteor stikes and great extinctions, snowball earth’s and massive volcansim, life has found a way. Life has been sustainable. What lessons can we take from nature as to how to conduct our own life and civilizations?”

    The bleeding obvious conclusion is that life (DNA) is incredibly sustainable and there is absolutely no need to worry. Long after humans are gone or mutated into something else, we can be absolutely assured that life (DNA) will continue. Chances are that life from our solar system is already spreading through our region of the galaxy and chances are that life got here on a comet or asteroid in the first place. Meteor impacts may cause mass extinction from time to time but chances are they spread life around too!

    You need to learn a little humility and realize that, in the scheme of things, humans are quite irrelevant. The AGW always over estimate human importance – a recurring theme going back to times when it was popular to think the earth was at the center of the universe.

  183. All right folks. When you think about energy and raw materials remember that we live in a star system that’s chock full of everything we need to fill it with life.

    This tiny planet is but an infinitesimal part of it.

    If we would just stop fighting over the table scraps and start mining asteroids and moons, and building habitats and power sats, we would have access to virtually infinite resources and living space.

  184. John West says:

    “The solar system and the universe is evidence that order can arise from chaos, that the second law of thermodynamics is not applicable to such systems.”

    The solar system and the universe is here BECAUSE of the laws of thermodynamics. It is progressing to LESS entropy, not more. The universe was more “orderly” at the Big Bang.

  185. @A physicist

    My word man. You use “physicist” in your title, yet you don’t even understand the second law of thermal dynamics? What resources on our planet are actually sustainable in the sense that we can infinitely use and reuse them without also using up another resource in the process? Let’s look at air: Did you know we are losing atmosphere, and all it contains, to space slowly over time? Even the air is not sustainable.

    A very common sense essay Willis. And this is why we need to expand into space. While the Earth is massive and can sustain us as we are for millennia, I believe, eventually our future can only be found among the stars. A long ways away.

  186. My graduate adviser used “sustainability” as a trick to make sure we were thinking. “Were American Indian agricultural practices sustainable?” was one question used on our comprehensive graduate exams. The correct reply is the question “In time or in space?” followed by “Which group or nation?” In some cases the correct answer is “apparently neither.” In other cases “it was sustainable over time but not in place, which is why they practiced modified swidden agriculture. But how long that could last we cannot know.” The prof is philosophically as Green as grass but is a stickler for looking at all the data and avoiding platitudes as well as being a firm believer in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Wish more were like that.

  187. While I agree with the general point of the article, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater: some systems are more stable and more secure than others. It behooves us to make the distinction and pursue stability. To the extent that climate change is a force for instability, we should consider modifying our energy infrastructure. I realize that most people here don’t think that Climate Change is a force for instability, but in the spirit of open discourse thought I’d float the point.

  188. The U.N. Agenda 21
    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    But, you missed the following . . .
    It contains within it two key concepts:
    1) the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
    2) the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs

    Limitations imposed by social organization. Hmm. That would be government, eh? And, since Agenda 21 is put forth by the U.N., we’re talking about a unified WORLD government, eh? So, this really has absolutely nothing to do with resources, environment, or development. It does have a lot to do with power and money. Always follow the money. But here we also have power. What kind of power? The power to be able to impose limitations (rationing or redistribution) on pretty much anything or anyone.

    So I dig up iron and make a shovel. What right do I have to that shovel under this agenda? I have no right to any of my private property, like a shovel, because it is up to some world government agency to decide what is the best use of that shovel. Because that is what is implied in “meeting the needs of the present.” Who decides what is sustainable? What laws can be passed, if everything has to pass a sustainability test? Who enforces those laws? Are the laws subject to any restrictions at all?

  189. A Physicist says: In my opinion, WUWT folks would be far better off reading for themselves what Wendell Berry has to say about sustainability.

    Theo Goodwin says: We do not know whether that word occurs in a sentence such as “How am I going to sustain my income if I continue writing these crappy books?”

    It is my pleasure to assist you, Theo. The above link is to the Google Books on-line version of Wendel Berry’s pamphlet Another Turn of the Crank (1996) in which the word “sustainable” appears on pages 3, 6, 18, 21, 22, and 23. The first usage is page 3:

    “[Farmers] are beginning to see that a kind of agriculture that involves unprecedented erosion and depletion of the soil, unprecedented waste of water, and unprecedented destruction of the farm population cannot by any accommodation of sense or fantasy be called ‘sustainable’.”

    Theo, I trust that in this passage Mr. Berry has clarified the meaning of the word “sustainable” to you, and that in particular you now appreciate the severe limitations of Willis Eschenbach’s arguments to the effect that “nothing is sustainable.”

    Mr. Berry argues the precise opposite: Everything that is truly important is sustainable.

    To me, this simple principle is the foundation of all true conservatism.

    Theo, should it happen that you still find clarity to be elusive, why … may I suggest that you simply read the rest of Mr. Berry’s pamphlet! :)

  190. The UN’s 1987 Brundtland Report makes NO sense:

    Here is the statement that I copied from a commenter above:
    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Reads like this to me: “’Sustainable’ development is development that meets the needs of the present while remaining without ANY ability to predict or understand what may or may NOT be compromising or improving the unknown ability using undiscovered technology of future generations to meet their own needs.”

  191. Willis, I love that cartoon you have posted earlier, I have it hanging in my office.

    I, too, am concerned about this trend of “sustainable development.” I am a technical person who was put on my corporation’s newly formed “sustainability team” to lend a bit of practicality to the process. I first attempted to get the team to define what “sustainability” is, defining the problem has always been the most effective first step in my experience. It turns out the definition is in the eye of the beholders, no real definition has been drafted.

    I have always been in the practical side of the industry, I have been responsible for turning out a real product that is useful to people. In the process, we churn out lots of greenhouse gas. In terms of the real production of greenhouse gas, which is apparently included as a part of sustainability, one little tweak of a valve or starting a motor or repairing a steam trap has much more influence than all of the efforts of this team. I know this, but they do not. I have never been in a situation where the support personnel have so little knowledge of how the money making side of the business works.

    But, fault me if you must, I have been laying low in the team because it keeps the greenies in the company busy and makes them feel good. Meanwhile, the production side does what it does best, making our product in the most efficient and money making manner possible. That is true sustainability.

  192. Jeremy-

    The bleeding obvious conclusion is that life (DNA) is incredibly sustainable and there is absolutely no need to worry.

    “Resilient” is your word here (not sustainable).

  193. Dave Springer: If there’s any chaos in the universe I think it might be confined to free will if such a thing as free will really exists.

    Dave, you’re just saying that because you have to….
    : > )

  194. Don’t forget that more than 30 years ago, the earth could not POSSIBLY
    .
    .
    .
    .
    (wait for it)
    .
    .
    .
    .
    sustain
    .
    .
    .
    ANY increase in it’s current population and when I hear about “sustainability” I hear the same arrogance of the ‘experts’ who, despite being proven wrong time and time again, continue as they always have to repeat their ‘Gaian’ dogma about mass starvation and mass extinctions…

  195. TXRED,
    I absolutely agree with your time and place caveat and would add to it- environmental state. Multiple stable environmental states may exist for any given time or place. As an example the tall grass prairie existed as a sustainable eco-system for thousands of years as the result of the anthropogenic application of fire. Basically, fire precluded a sustainable forest ecosystem. We see these prairies now being replaced by forest as the result of fire suppression. And without fire- the prairie system is not sustainable.
    The change from highly fire dependent prairie to forest alters at a fundamental level the physical and biological conditions that determine a “stable state” and I assume for these purposes- what is and is not sustainable.
    So what is better – the prairie or forest? Until someone can tell me which is better and why- we can’t even begin to talk about sustainability.

  196. R. Gates doth pontificate:

    But to you point about sustainability. The lessons we can learn from nature are enormous. Somehow, for hundreds of millions of years the earth has found a way to sustain life.>>>

    Bullsh*t. The earth is an inanimate object and doesn’t do squat to sustain life. Life sustain’s istelf by adapting to the conditions on earth.

    R. Gates;
    Despite meteor stikes and great extinctions, snowball earth’s and massive volcansim, life has found a way. Life has been sustainable. What lessons can we take from nature as to how to conduct our own life and civilizations?>>>

    That nature is trying to kill us. Unless we use the many means at our disposal, she will. Fortunately, we’re not animals and we can defeat everything that nature can throw at us. Look around you at our cities, our roads, our dams, and all that we have built to keep nature at bay.

    R. Gates;
    1) Use only what you really need. Excesses of use lead to all sorts of imbalances. Lions don’t kill every gazelle. If they did, both would go extinct.>>>

    Neither do humans. In fact, we’re not so stupid as to wake up every morning hoping that there’s enough gazelles hanging around to feed us for one more day. We build farms and feedlots and breed crops and animals to maximize production and efficiency and we manage supply and demand accordingly. We can as a result achieve population levels orders of magnitude larger than we would if we were content to use as little of our resources as possible like the stupid animals that live one day at a time.

    R. Gates;
    2) Use energy that is as closely associated with contemporary solar energy as possible. Wind, direct solar, food, etc. are all examples of “current solar” energy. This is in direct contrast to “old solar” in the forms of fossil fuels.

    Why would we consign ourselves to the past? Wind and solar were the primary sources of power for centuries during which famines occurred regularly, half the available food rotted before it could be eaten or transported to somewhere it was needed, land lay unused because there was no possible way to farm it, and people froze to death if they ventured to live outside of tropical or semi-tropical areas. We fixed all that by moving to fossil fuels and you want to go back…to be more like the animals?

    R. Gates;
    3) Build for reuse, and reuse to build. Everything that is manufactured should have a high degree of reusablility and everything that is manufactured should be made as much as possible from reused materials versus “virgin” materials. This is the way nature has done it for millions of years and it has worked pretty darn well.>>>

    Bullsh*t. Everything nature “builds” rots unless some humans come along and preserve it. Build for utility and cost effectiveness. At some point maintainability becomes more costly than disposal and replacement. Throw away plastic blister packs are not only cheaper than glass containers, it takes less resources to produce and dispose of them than it does to wash the glass container for re-use.

    R. Gates;
    Bottom line: Life on Earth (and in this universe) might not be infinitely sustainable, as entropy will eventually have it’s way, but for all practical puposes, if we watch the methods nature has evolved, we can learn how to be practical sustainable in our lives and in our civilizaitons.>>>

    But it is sustainable well into the future for many generations just based on the technology we have today, never mind what we’ll have come up with 200 years from now. Unless of course someone convinces us to go back to being animals because it is “sustainable”.

  197. Willis writes “In other words, Roger, there’s nothing that’s sustainable except building spaceships, and Tim, you agree?”

    And I’m wondering whether he’s lost it :-P

  198. I’ve plowed through over 200 comments to Willis’ article and I have come to the conclusion that “sustainability” in the environmentalist context is little more than a sufficiently ambiguous political buzz word. For me “sustainability” only has relevance for about a 40 year time span. After that I expect to be deceased.

    My grandparents were alive 100 years ago. I’m pretty sure they didn’t fret about the availability of adequate food and potable water for those who would be alive many years after they died. They worried about having adequate food and potable water for themselves – right then. They didn’t concern themselves with air traffic congestion, internet regulations, using cell phones while driving, nuclear waste, global warming, etc. because they could not even imagine such things. Now we’re expected to modify our lifestyles (i.e. consumption of resources) to benefit future generations. We base this upon the notion that we are as smart and as technologically advanced as mankind will ever get. The “hubris of the present.” We will continue to create and utilize energy 100 years hence just as we do now because we can’t conceive of anything else. The same for anything we mine. Let’s face it, for everything mankind utilizes, if you can’t grow it, you have to mine it. “Sustainable Development” is a load of socialist, bureaucratic hogwash. The best thing we can do for future generations is to leave them wealthier, more developed, better educated and thus better equipped to meet the challenges of the future that we cannot even envision.

  199. Dave Stephens says: Don’t forget that more than 30 years ago, the earth could not POSSIBLY (wait for it) sustain ANY increase in it’s current population and when I hear about “sustainability” I hear the same arrogance of the ‘experts’ who, despite being proven wrong time and time again, continue as they always have to repeat their ‘Gaian’ dogma about mass starvation and mass extinctions

    What you mean, Dave, is that humanity needs many more scientists like (my fellow Iowan!) Norman Borlaug. Although, your memory of what leading scientists like Borlaug actually have been saying is faulty:

    Norman Borlaug: The Man I Worked With and Knew

    “From his early years, Dr. Borlaug expressed his concerns about global population and food supply. In his view, political leaders, including the Pope, did little to stem the “population monster.” He constantly advocated family planning. Not to detract from the Green Revolution, he felt that it only gave the world a breathing space of 30 years.”

    Now in the 21st century, we are faced with the sobering reality, that the breathing time Borlaug gave us has been largely used up.

  200. Willis,
    Try Dr. Brian Czech’s “Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train.” Zero growth and sustainability theory are actually deeply rooted in humility and egalitarianism, whether you choose to believe it or not.
    I really enjoyed your piece “Fair Weather Gale” a while back, and I learned from it. I have quoted from your work on the climatic thermostat extensively. I was intrigued by your work on tropical thunderstorms. Why not stick to topics where you, um, actually have something to offer?

  201. Well said Willis. The “sustainability” inanity really gets under my skin. It’s a mindset that flourishes in this country courtesy of an education system that inculcates our young with the tenets of PC group think and a moribund MSM too timid to deviate from the group think litany.

    People tend to offer a quizzical look when one comments that human existence is not and cannot be “sustainable”. The sustainabites don’t seem to understand that wooden shovels, cars, computers and TVs don’t work all that well. Likewise it is PC hand wringing about land use that has strangled resource development and agriculture in this country. It’s a no-brainer that natural resources should be used wisely, but the sustainabites need to assume a little humility and recognise that the planet does not, and never will need man’s help to rearrange and erode the landscape by kilometers, to cover continents with kilometers of ice and to rearrange the continents at will.

  202. A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    “It is my pleasure to assist you, Theo. The above link is to the Google Books on-line version of Wendel Berry’s pamphlet Another Turn of the Crank (1996) in which the word “sustainable” appears on pages 3, 6, 18, 21, 22, and 23. The first usage is page 3:
    “[Farmers] are beginning to see that a kind of agriculture that involves unprecedented erosion and depletion of the soil, unprecedented waste of water, and unprecedented destruction of the farm population cannot by any accommodation of sense or fantasy be called ‘sustainable’.”
    Theo, I trust that in this passage Mr. Berry has clarified the meaning of the word “sustainable” to you, and that in particular you now appreciate the severe limitations of Willis Eschenbach’s arguments to the effect that “nothing is sustainable.”

    Actually, “A P,” he clarified the meaning of the word “unsustainable,” which I have understood for some time. We are looking for a Berryian definition of “sustainable.” Now, it is clear that “not unsustainable” is not helpful on the road to “sustainable.” So, I do not see how defining “unsustainable” can help us understand “sustainable.”

    It seems to me that correct uses of the word ‘sustainable’ always require that an expiration date or time be given. For example, when jogging a particular pace is sustainable for X number of minutes. When dieting, a daily intake of 1000 calories is sustainable for a number of days. When farming, a particular regimen of crop rotation is sustainable until essential nutrients are depleted or, more to the point, until those crops produce too little income.

    Taking a longer look at things, one can say that Florida’s beaches are sustainable for centuries, if Al Gore’s beliefs are false and local government continues to behave rationally and Earth is not hit by a meteor and so on. However, it is nonsense to say that they are sustainable without qualification. If the USA becomes as poor as Africa, which seems to be the UN plan, then Florida’s beaches will disappear in a matter of decades because they are maintained through large expenditures by Florida homeowners and local and state governments of Florida. Stop those expenditures and the beaches will be unrecognizable in a short time.

    I cannot see a definition of “sustainable” that does not come with an expiration date. In other words, nothing is sustainable without an expiration date. Yet you seem to argue that some things are simply sustainable without qualification.

  203. From his early years, Dr. Borlaug… felt that it only gave the world a breathing space of 30 years.

    Borlaug was just one more deluded soul among many, who wrongly believed the end was nigh. We’re well past his 30 years’ “breathing time”, but nothing unusual is happening. The fact is that prosperity, more than anything else, reduces population. Yet the proposed ‘solutions’ are all anti-prosperity. Go figure.

    The common thread that runs through every alarmist is the fact that they are always wrong. Their predictions never come true, but that doesn’t dissuade them any more than Harold Camping was dissuaded when the world didn’t end, or Mrs Keech’s followers weren’t dissuaded when the flying saucer didn’t arrive as predicted, or Jehovah’s Witnesses were not dissuaded each time their multiple predictions of the end of the world failed.

    Their cognitive dissonance is identical with today’s population alarmists and climate alarmists. No matter how many failed predictions they make, and no matter how many of those predictions never come true, they remain True Believers in their own little secular religions, and they still follow the self-serving climate charlatans who make outlandish predictions. In laymen’s terms, the True Believers are crazy.

  204. Excellent. I’ve had this argument many times with people. Population growth makes any effort towards “sustainability” an even greater joke. If you cut usage of whatever by 20% or whatever, population growth will quickly swamp any gains.
    Sustainability is nonsense.

  205. davidmhoffer says:
    December 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm
    “R. Gates doth pontificate:
    R. Gates;
    Despite meteor stikes and great extinctions, snowball earth’s and massive volcansim, life has found a way. Life has been sustainable. What lessons can we take from nature as to how to conduct our own life and civilizations?>>>”

    R., it depends on whose life you are talking about. And I firmly believe that your assumption that we can refer to something called “Life” that is no particular life is false. Plato might have liked your views.

  206. I would argue that “sustainability” is unsustainable: i.e. the more iron that you mine and the more shovels you make today, the MORE iron and the MORE shovels will be available for future generations. First of all, by mining iron, we are teaching future generations how to mine and where to mine, and that mining can be done. That is valuable knowledge. We’re also providing them with lots of readily-available iron that does not need to be mined. If they want or need to melt down their shovels and make guns, tanks, or I-beams, they can, quite easily, and they will not incur the significant cost of mining and smelting. Sure, some iron will be lost in the process, but a great deal of energy and time will be saved, too.

    Future generations greatly benefit from our consumption today.

    This particularly true in the case of rare and exotic minerals, like nickel and cadmium mentioned the article. If we mine and refine these metals, and use them productively today to make cell phones with, they will be more readily available tomorrow, if we wish to recycle them, or simply use acquired knowledge to find and extract more of them.

  207. Theo Goodwin says: We are looking for a Berryian definition of “sustainable.”

    LOL … Theo, had you read Berry’s essay to the end, you would have come to Mr. Berry’s 17-point list of principles regarding How a Sustainable Local Community Might Function.

    So tell the truth and shame the devil Theo (as they say in Iowa) … did you read that far? It’s a set of principles well-worth pondering.

  208. Smokey says: Borlaug was just one more deluded soul among many, who wrongly believed the end was nigh. We’re well past his 30 years’ “breathing time”, but nothing unusual is happening.

    Smokey, those lefty nutjobs at Forbes disagree with you; they say the syndromes that Borlaug and Berry foresaw are upon us.

  209. Comments have been largely straw man arguments on all sides because there is no sustainability definition (and I would argue there can be no meaningful and encompassing definition).
    I’ve heard a lot of “its” possible and “its” not impossible- but not a lot of definition of what “it” is.

  210. The technical definition of a sustainable process is one in which the output of the restorative mechanism is of equal or greater magnitude than the input of the exploitative mechanism. Timber harvesting a forest can be truly sustainable if the new biomass of growing wood equals or exceeds the amount of wood harvested, AND if the tilth is returned to the soil. Irrigation can be sustainable if the aquifer is recharged at the rate of removal. Of course, if salts build up in the soil then the agriculture is not sustainable, but the irrigation process still meets the definition.

  211. @A physicist says:
    December 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    All well and good, A, but it still doesn’t answer “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

  212. David says:
    December 22, 2011 at 7:43 am

    The argument that all “greens” are “warmists” and therefore we should allow[!] developing nations to suffocate[!] themselves in coal power pollution is a strawman, and shows weakness of mind.

    Likewise, David, as per your own [illogical] “strawman” argument above, do you agree that the argument to the effect that truly scientific CO2 = CAGW sceptics are “climate change deniers”, “flat earthers”, “Big Oil bought and paid for scientists”, or simply “deniers”; and therefore that green “sustainability” Environmentalists of a “warmist” ilk have the right to force developing and developed nations to de-develop further back towards the Stone Age by discontinuing their [often massive] fossil fuel dependent energy development programs, is actually an illogical, completely anti-factual, and provenly counter-productive Climate Science argument and plan, if done solely to stop CO2 outputs? But which “Environmentalists” such as the green “Warmist” ipcc Climate Scientists, enc, themselves do in fact make?

    And when you conclude that:

    Environmentalists are NOT the skeptics’ adversary. Warmists are. There’s a big difference.

    Do you also agree with the fact that CO2 is not a “pollutant” and that it will not cause Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming – on the basis of the scientific fact that the Warmist Climate Scientists have not made even one correct prediction yet derived from their CO2 = CAGW “theory”?

  213. Davidmhoffer sez:

    “The earth is an inanimate object and doesn’t do squat to sustain life. Life sustain’s istelf by adapting to the conditions on earth.”

    You’re trying to Anthropomorphize the living system that is the earth. The Earth is hardly inanimate. If it were…you’d surely have never existed. This is a dynamic living planet in which the whole is far more than the sum of the parts.

    ______
    “That nature is trying to kill us. Unless we use the many means at our disposal, she will. Fortunately, we’re not animals and we can defeat everything that nature can throw at us. Look around you at our cities, our roads, our dams, and all that we have built to keep nature at bay.”

    “Nature” trying to kill us? Surely not. Nature is the sum total of interrelated living things. Nature no more is trying to kill the gazelle, when it is attacked by the lion then it is trying to kill you when you’re attacked by a virus. Sounds rather paranoid overall. But no, you can’t defeat “everything” that nature can throw at you…for surely you and I will both face death.

    _____

    “But it is sustainable well into the future for many generations just based on the technology we have today…

    There is always the balance between quantity or length of life and quality of life. Though you can extend the “life” of a love one with technology long after nature, in her mercy, would have taken them, it doesn mean that you should. There is a reason why they call pneumonia the “friend of the elderly”.
    _______
    “Everything nature “builds” rots unless some humans come along and preserve it.”

    This is just simple minded. In decay and death, nature plants the seeds for the next generation of life. Have you never had a compost pile? And in terms of “preservation”, that is one area that human have really screwed things up for themselves. Do you know how much pancreatic cancer has been caused by years and years of preservatives being put into the body? Best to just eat fresh food, and stay away from the sodium nitrite especially. It essentially pickles your pancreas.

  214. Should prehistoric homo-sapiens have behaved in a more “sustainable” manner and made sure that they conserved stones for the benefit of future generations?

  215. Theo Goodwin says:
    December 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    R. Gates said;
    “Despite meteor stikes and great extinctions, snowball earth’s and massive volcansim, life has found a way. Life has been sustainable. What lessons can we take from nature as to how to conduct our own life and civilizations?>>>”

    R., it depends on whose life you are talking about. And I firmly believe that your assumption that we can refer to something called “Life” that is no particular life is false. Plato might have liked your views.
    ______
    Then you miss the essence of the relationships that form the web of life on earth. When a lion chases a pack of gazelles, it is not a particular gazelle it is after, but rather, it is simply following the instincts programmed inside. It is hungry and wants to eat any gazelle that it can get hold of. Sometimes young, sometimes old, sometimes weak, and sometimes just plain unlucky. The importance of this relationship is so that both species may continue, without care for any specfic individual of that species. It is this relationship between gazelle and lion that is the essence of the web of life. Though it runs contrary to many people’s belief systems, no man or woman is truly ever an island unto themselves.

  216. Thankyou for your article. “Sustainability” has been a stone in my shoe for years. Here in the Australian Government, the term is bandied around like it is the panacea to everything. Any time I have asked someone to explain what “sustainability” means, they go off on tangents.

    Finally I hear some sense. Thanks again.

  217. Jeremy says:
    December 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    The bleeding obvious conclusion is that life (DNA) is incredibly sustainable and there is absolutely no need to worry. Long after humans are gone or mutated into something else, we can be absolutely assured that life (DNA) will continue.
    _____

    1. I’m not really worried about too much.
    2. Life is more than a sequence of DNA. It is a relationship. And, no, I am not absolutely assured that DNA will continue in this universe after all the useful energy has been used up.

    ______

    Jeremy also said:

    “You need to learn a little humility and realize that, in the scheme of things, humans are quite irrelevant. The AGW always over estimate human importance – a recurring theme going back to times when it was popular to think the earth was at the center of the universe.”

    How odd that you would equate my belief that it is more likely than not that AGW is occurring with some over-estimation of human importance. Life has always affected the atmosphere and hydrosphere of this planet, and it doesn’t raise the importance of humans to be one of many.

  218. crosspatch says: December 22, 2011 at 1:38 …………….
    Thanks for the wiki link on the precautionary principle and the administrative laws being put in place under the guise of ensuring no risk is left unaccounted for. I see that the city of SF is noted as follows-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

    “USA”
    “On July 18, 2005, the City of San Francisco passed a Precautionary Principle Purchasing ordinance, which requires the city to weigh the environmental and health costs of its $600 million in annual purchases – for everything from cleaning supplies to computers…..”

    It will be interesting to see how SF deals with the advocacy groups pushing for the removal of the dam at Hetch Hetchy. Removal of the dam will elimate a lot of the hydro electricity that SF gets out of the system- http://www.bls.gov/ro9/cpisanf_energy.htm

    …………”Available Electricity Supply-

    “The Hetch Hetchy Enterprise provides electricity to the City’s municipal load customers, which include City facilities, the Port, the Airport, and San Francisco Unified School District and Community College District facilities, to the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts, and to Airport tenants and Norris Industries, a Federal munitions factory in Riverbank, California. Hydroelectricity is generated by the flow of water from the three Hetch Hetchy system reservoirs, Lake Eleanor, Cherry Lake, and Hetch Hetchy, through the four powerhouses, Holm, Kirkwood, Moccasin, and Moccasin Low Head. In addition to generating hydroelectricity, the Hetch Hetchy Enterprise purchases electricity through its long-term power purchase agreement with Calpine Corporation and on the wholesale electricity market.

    Electricity that is to be used by the City’s municipal customers, Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts, and Norris Industries each day is scheduled on the State’s electricity grid. The amount of electricity resources, including hydroelectric power generated by the Hetch Hetchy Enterprise and purchased power, that are scheduled on the electricity grid must equal the amount of electricity that is required by the City’s municipal customers, Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts, and Norris Industries. Because electricity cannot be stored, the Hetch Hetchy Enterprise must purchase electricity if it is not able to generate a sufficient amount of hydroelectric power to meet its obligations at any given time. Conversely, if the Hetch Hetchy Enterprise generates more hydroelectric power or has more power purchases under the long-term power purchase agreement with the Calpine Corporation than is required to meet its obligations, the surplus electricity must be offered to Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts if it comes from Hetch Hetchy, or it can be sold on the market if it comes from contract purchases or if hydroelectric power is refused by Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts……….”

    I take it the city wouldn’t like to pay the electical rates that the rest of the Bay Area residents currently pay-

    http://www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=19229

    “A kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity cost San Francisco area consumers $0.216 in October 2011, 2.7 percent less than one year earlier. Nationwide, electricity prices averaged $0.130 in October 2011, compared to $0.127 the previous year. For the past five years, electricity prices in the San Francisco area have been consistently above the national average and ranged from approximately 47 percent to over 88 percent higher.”

    Thanks for the reference.

  219. jrwakefield says:
    December 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm
    John West says:

    “The solar system and the universe is evidence that order can arise from chaos, that the second law of thermodynamics is not applicable to such systems.”

    The solar system and the universe is here BECAUSE of the laws of thermodynamics. It is progressing to LESS entropy, not more. The universe was more “orderly” at the Big Bang.

    ________
    jrwakefield,

    Unless you’ve discovered some new physics that can reverse times arrow, and lead to less entropy in the universe, for yours and everyone else’s benefit, you ought to know that the universe is heading toward toward more entropy, not less. In simple terms, Entropy is a measure of disorder, and disorder, when looking at the whole system, is always increasing.

  220. Matt Skaggs,
    You have removed the inherent complexity to achieve a definition of sustainability by isolating to a single variable (ex forest). I would submit you take this path because it is impossible to do otherwise and even this is impossible.
    Your forest analogy is only sustainable from a standpoint of timber- what age forest, what tree mix, who profits, what fire cycle who decides are just a few of the other possible metrics? What if I believe no timber should ever be removed and someone else believed we should burn it all down and replace it with tall grass prairie. Simply stating it is the planting of more trees than you remove is senseless from the standpoint of the ecosystem that organizes around the infinitely complex interplay of forest age, tree type, fire cycle, disease, allelopathy, soil chemistry and its even more complex interrelationship with the biota that selects various mutually exclusive forest states as the preferred sustainable option. And is that a sustainable forest with or without invasive earth worms because that changes everything as well. Who decides these issue and countless others and by what rules?
    It gets even harder when we move to solving two variables forest and water- now we need to look at evapotranspiration effects as one example. Do we maximize forest area or groundwater recharge- how do we value the impacts on minimum flow in headwater streams. The type of tree determines in large part the energy dynamics (productivity) related to leaf litter especially in head water dreams. Do we maximize fish production or timber production. Are we optimizing for biomass or diversity? Who decides and why. How does the next generation vote? What buffers to natural variability are imposed?
    I could go on and on- sustainability however first requires defining what you want and what are you willing to risk/tradeoff for the chance to achieve it. The second part of how we achieve this will never happen because we will never be able to agree to the first part of the question. Demanding sustainability is how one side justifies never asking what do you want and what are you willing to risk to achieve it?

  221. R. Gates says…. lots of places- ………….entropy……………..

    I had to take a look at a reference in my library “Checkland- System Thinking, Systems Practice”- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Checkland to respond to your comments about entropy and why it is not a first principle in “unrestricted sciences-” biology. Somehow embryos come into being and entropy is not applicable while the live system is holding back the forces of decay. Emergent activities happen throughout the development of what we call life. As Willis has pointed out elsewhere it appears that our climate system has similar emergent properties. I’d love to hear more about this subject………..

    In the mean time Happy Holidays.

  222. When the lefties bring up their mythical notion of enviro sustainability, I respond with real concerns about the real kind of sustainability: economic sustainability, which is exactly the standard that NONE of lefties’ favored spending programs meet — especially the kinds of corporate welfare without which “green” jobs and “green” products mostly can’t exist.

  223. Ken Hall says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:14 am
    Sustainable forestry is possible.

    Only if you burn the forests in place. Otherwise the forests deplete the soil nutrients over time. Sustainable farming means going into the forest and burning down a section and planting a crop in the nutrients returned to the soil, then moving on to a new section of forest the next year. Even that is unsustainable, unless you eat the food in place and leave behind the dung.

    Without added energy, land can only support a very few people per square mile. In the tropics the number is higher, because the energy from the sun is higher. Restrict the use of coal and oil through carbon taxes and the forests of the earth will converted to fuel by economics.

    Thus REDD seeks to secure the timber rights to large portions of the earth by displacing aboriginal owners and thus reap fantastic profits. WWF, Strong, Clinton are advocates. Any chance they have a conflict of interest?

  224. as a builder, i have to laugh at the “green” garbage that is being built in the name of “sustainability”. so much of it is just contemporary “me” junk clad in poor – and poorly tested – materials.

    and all of that sustainable, award-winning, but severely depreciating junk will be filling landfills in 20 or 30 years. it’s a sick joke.

  225. Here is what sustainable development really means:

    The poor of the earth cannot have an education, job, money, house, car, cell phone, TV, running water, electricity, 3 square meals a day, because this would deplete the resources of the earth, ruining things for those of us that already have those things.

    There is no such thing as sustainable development. It is simply greed and fear. Greed to deny the poor what you already have. Fear that they will take it away unless stopped.

  226. So true, Willis, well said. That utterly ridiculous word “sustainability” has been annoying me for years courtesy of the clueless who worship it.

  227. A physicist says:

    “Smokey, those lefty nutjobs at Forbes disagree with you; they say the syndromes that Borlaug and Berry foresaw are upon us.”

    In reading that Forbes link, I see that it has nothing to do with my comment. That is the typical M.O. of ‘a physicist': he cannot refute my point that after 30 years Borlaug has been proven wrong, so ‘a physicist’s’ inane response is to link to an unrelated article rather than admit that Borlaug’s prediction was an abject failure.

  228. Aynsley, If I understand your paper correctly sustainability is the arena where we battle over competing fears, interests and ideologies while trying to make believe its about natural eco-systems.

  229. Pat,
    Yes – it is a concept that tends to reflect our concerns over social instability, and we cling to it despite the fact that ecological science no longer supports a meme of ‘Nature’s delicate balance.’ Ecological science and the environmental movement parted company c1990, but it is an idea that still infects branches of ‘political science’ such as that on climate change science that is based on the notion of a stable climate – but for anthropogenic factors.

  230. Willis Eschenbach says:
    “December 22, 2011 at 10:16 am
    1DandyTroll says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Why have we been able to mine one of the scarcest metals for some 7000 years and still we’re not running low?

    Hey, Dandy, back to trolling I see. In answer to your question, it’s because”

    Always. Thank you for noticing. :-)

    “a) for about the first 6,800 of those years there weren’t many of us, and”

    By the meagre calculations I can make, that’s a none answer, or an answer by someone who also doesn’t understand the enormity of the human race in relation to the scarcity of gold.

    “b) the world is a big place, and”

    7000 years ago, it wasn’t that big of a place, yet we still mine in the same places they did 7000 years ago, more or less.

    “c) when we start to run low we use something else. Who would have guessed that copper communication cables could be replaced by glass cables?”

    You can’t create gold, only diamonds lol, and there’s no glass plated speaker wires…and I can’t get glass cables either in the place I live for internet, only gigabit copper cables (and that’s another metal we never seem to run out off.) :p

    Here’s my guess, we will never run out of gold even if it is, in reality, a limited resource. And we’ll probably never run out of oil or gas either, because it has been accumulating for a billion years and simple little man has only mined it for less than 100 years, industrially and the machinery that use it we keep making use less of it to perform the same or better. But mostly because we’re our own ants in relation to our size which is ant-sized in comparison to our own egos. :-()

    Merry Christmas, and plz why not put your articles and conclusions together in a book?

  231. I should add that my student Phil Lawn published a good book from his thesis on the economics of sustainability (reference is in my lecture), where he showed convincingly that resource depletion is not an issue. The only concern is waste accumulation in the longer term (following Georgescu-Roegen’s incorporation of the entropy law into economics) – but then we are not necessarily in a closed system and could conceivably fire off nuclear waste into the sun and still come out in front.

  232. Excellent essay!

    My father and I used to discuss this 15 or more years ago, and he said it appeared to him that the modifier and the verb had been misused in the phrase.

    My personal opinion? “Sustainability” sets an artificial mean, and then supply and demand be damned, cost, cause and effect be damned, we will do without whatever is necessary, or supply whatever is necessary, to “sustain” that artificial mean.

    No matter how far the quality of life falls below the line, no matter how far the cost rises above it.

  233. Here’s a simple idea, from a simple troll, but why Mr Willis not have a great get together by you good people? Just imagine it, You, of course, Mr Watts, The JoNova, The last conservative Delingpole, Tall “got nicked” bloke, J.Id, Laframboise, The evil twins McIntyre and McKitrick, and capped by the one and, ours all only, skeptical Lord Monckton?

    Just imagine the ad propagated youtube video of such a showing and how informative that could be for climate change (the latte, of course, is a must to get EU funding for any conference or debates, these days, apparently.)

  234. A physicist says: “Smokey, those lefty nutjobs at Forbes disagree with you; they say the syndromes that Borlaug and Berry foresaw are upon us.”

    Smokey says: In reading that Forbes link, I see that it has nothing to do with my comment. That is the typical M.O. of ‘a physicist’: he cannot refute my point that after 30 years Borlaug has been proven wrong, so ‘a physicist’s’ inane response is to link to an unrelated article rather than admit that Borlaug’s prediction was an abject failure.

    Smokey, the key graphic in the Forbes article “Why We Are In Political Gridlock: The Private Sector Is Dying” is the Economy-Wide Return on Invested Capital, which has been trending down in every decade since 1965 (which is why median family income has been stagnant in these same decades). As the Forbes article says:

    “When push comes to shove, the economy isn’t providing a good living for all its citizens. The economic dysfunction that people see in their personal lives flows from this fundamental fact.”

    To my mind, the ideas of Wendell Berry and Norman Borlaug account for this adverse American economic trend more naturally than the slogans of either political party, or the machinations of the investment bankers of Wall Street, or Willis Eschenbach’s “just-say-no to sustainability” economic theories.

  235. Willis: “In other words, Roger, there’s nothing that’s sustainable except building spaceships, and Tim, you agree? Just trying to clarify your position. If that’s it, it’s very much like mine—I say nothing is sustainable, and you say only building spaceships might be sustainable … but since building spaceships is only about 0.0001% of what humans do, we’re not far apart.”

    More or less, Willis; yes — although I do not believe we are at the point of needing spaceships yet; just the continuing development of the technology to have them in the future so we can when either necessary or because we wish to. (That we do continue development is critical, but under threat from those who beat their breasts in woe–another subject we are becoming increasingly familiar with… to our despair; or mine, anyway.)

    Does humanity claim to be the ultimate expression of life (and I believe it is) then it is up to humanity to see that we live forever. We have a planet to play with, and then the stars.

    So, yes, we can be “sustainable” — if we wish to be.

    p.s. Four grandchildren wanting to play train games on this computer right now! is limiting me even as it inspires me…

  236. ‘a physicist’ says:

    “From his early years, Dr. Borlaug… felt that it only gave the world a breathing space of 30 years.”

    My comment was in response to Borlaug’s failed prediction. The Forbes article is merely a diversion; deliberate misdirection away from a provably wrong prediction. Man up and admit that the prediction was flat wrong. Or post diversions, or whatever is necessary to give some desperately needed wiggle room.

    Climate alarmists’ predictions all have one thing in common: they’re wrong.

  237. By cloaking this all in terms of defending Nature to justify economic/social/political arguments we have held meaningful environmental improvement hostage. From an economic view point I no longer see any incentive to correct ANY environmental problem. The maintenance of the problem simply has more value now to the various organized concentrated interests than does any solution. Those of us that entered the environmental field decades ago thinking we were going to fix wetlands and fisheries rather than people simply feel betrayed. I have learned Austrian economics explains the last 40 years of environmental “decision making” better than does any science. What a waste.

  238. Unless you’ve discovered some new physics that can reverse times arrow, and lead to less entropy in the universe, for yours and everyone else’s benefit, you ought to know that the universe is heading toward toward more entropy, not less. In simple terms, Entropy is a measure of disorder, and disorder, when looking at the whole system, is always increasing.

    —-

    Yes, my bad. Had it backwards.

  239. R. Gates says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm
    Davidmhoffer sez:

    “The earth is an inanimate object and doesn’t do squat to sustain life. Life sustain’s istelf by adapting to the conditions on earth.”

    You’re trying to Anthropomorphize the living system that is the earth. The Earth is hardly inanimate. If it were…you’d surely have never existed. This is a dynamic living planet in which the whole is far more than the sum of the parts.>>>>

    Oh poppycock. The Earth is a planet. A chunk of rocks and minerals, a whack of water, and some gases. It isn’t animate, it doesn’t think, and it doesn’t sustain a damn thing. The biosphere is just life that exploits the resources of the planet.

    R. Gates;
    “Nature” trying to kill us? Surely not. Nature is the sum total of interrelated living things. Nature no more is trying to kill the gazelle, when it is attacked by the lion then it is trying to kill you when you’re attacked by a virus.>>>

    The part you don’t seem to get is that we’re not animals, we’re humans. We’ve eradicated some of the viruses that would otherwise kill us, we’ve found cures for others, and we will do the same for the rest. The gazelle has no choice but to die and be eaten if caught by a lion, and the lion has no choice but to die if it doesn’t catch enough gazelles to eat. THAT is the point! We’re NOT animals, we do NOT have to accept the rules that the animals live by, we can make our OWN rules for what is best for US. You are arguing that we would be better off just being animals and doing our best to survive. If you want to go back to 40% infant mortality rates, plagues, famines, and life expectancies half of what we have today, you go right ahead. But don’t you dare ask the rest of us to come with you.

    R. Gates;
    There is always the balance between quantity or length of life and quality of life.>>>

    What you propose is a poor quality short life.

    Though you can extend the “life” of a love one with technology long after nature, in her mercy, would have taken them, it doesn mean that you should. There is a reason why they call pneumonia the “friend of the elderly”.>>>>

    We’re not talking about technology and the elderly. We’re talking about regular people over the course of their lifespan. In the world you propose, most of us would be dead at under the age of 30 from starvation, disease and cold. Given the choice of having the dilemma regarding the elderly, I’d rather have the choice. You want your kids and grandkids to have a near zero shot at getting old in the first place, then you’re one evil nasty dude.

    R. Gates;
    In decay and death, nature plants the seeds for the next generation of life. Have you never had a compost pile?>>>

    Yes I have one. Nature didn’t build it though, I did. The best you can do is use as an example something that wouldn’t exist without humans? Wow. So, what you are saying is that human intervention is good for the biosphere? Why, exactly, is a compost heap “good” and “natural” when other methods of enriching the soil and improving production are not?

    R. Gates;
    And in terms of “preservation”, that is one area that human have really screwed things up for themselves. Do you know how much pancreatic cancer has been caused by years and years of preservatives being put into the body?>>>

    No idea. Do you know how many people are saved from death from food borne diseases because of those preservatives? How many people are saved from starvation because of those preservatives? How many people are lifted out of poverty because preservatives make food supplies so much less expensive? The good outways the bad by orders of magnitude, not to mention that without the preservatives the very people you claim are being killed by pancreatic cancer probably wouldn’t live long enough to develop it. Pick one: Die of plague at age 30, or die at 65 of pancreatic cancer. Pick one: Die of starvation at the age of 30, or die of pancreatic cancer at age 65. In fact, find me ONE person who would NOT pick pancreatic cancer! Then add to that the fact that dieing from plague or starvation by age 30 would be a near certainty, but dieing of pancreatic cancer would be pretty rare even if one went heavy on the preservatives all one’s life.

    That’s the choice you are suggesting. A nearly certain short brutal life, or a teeny chance of death at old age via pancreatic cancer. You pick whatever you want, but don’t sentence billions of people to your own fate.

    R. Gates;
    Best to just eat fresh food, and stay away from the sodium nitrite especially. It essentially pickles your pancreas.>>>

    Where, with your use as little of everything stay in harmony with nature bullsh*t, do you suppose the fresh food is going to come from? Do you think it will make itz own compost heaps, till itz own soil, pull itz own weeks, harvest itself, refrigerate itself, and walk to your house where it will then boil water with which to wash itself off and then present itself to you to be eaten “fresh”?

    You live in some sort of dream world R. Gates where it is good to sentence billions to death and live like animals because they are “natural” and so we should be too.

    Bullsh*t.

  240. Davidmhoffer said:

    “Oh poppycock. The Earth is a planet. A chunk of rocks and minerals, a whack of water, and some gases. It isn’t animate, it doesn’t think, and it doesn’t sustain a damn thing. The biosphere is just life that exploits the resources of the planet.”

    ——
    Nice reductionism. You could break an apple down to the individual elements…so much carbon, oxygen, etc., but it would not tell you about what the essence the apple is. If you cannot see that the Earth and all the systems of minerals, oceans, atmosphere, magnetosphere, etc., add up to a life sustaining whole, then I feel very sorry for you and leave you to contemplate your pile of dead elements that once was an apple and the notion that the whole is far more than the sum of the parts.

  241. I’ve had this sort of conversation with my wife. She claims we need to use our salary wisely to sustain our family. I point out quite rightly that we will spend it all whatever happens, so why not blow it on having a good time before it disappears in inflation etc? She for her part claims that sustainable use of our income and resources is about maximising the use and potential of what we have and not being wasteful. Ah well, you’ll never convince some people eh!

  242. Matt Skaggs says:
    December 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Willis,
    Try Dr. Brian Czech’s “Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train.” Zero growth and sustainability theory are actually deeply rooted in humility and egalitarianism, whether you choose to believe it or not.
    I really enjoyed your piece “Fair Weather Gale” a while back, and I learned from it. I have quoted from your work on the climatic thermostat extensively. I was intrigued by your work on tropical thunderstorms. Why not stick to topics where you, um, actually have something to offer?

    When you agree with me my work is intriguing, but when you disagree with me, I somehow have nothing to offer … funny how that works. I fear that your advice, that I should stick to topics where I agree with you, will go unheeded …

    If you have something to say about “sustainability theory”, whatever that might be, how about you just say it?

    And regarding “zero growth” … what on earth does that mean on a planet where forty percent of the people live on less than $2 per day?

    w.

  243. R. Gates says:
    December 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    There is always the balance between quantity or length of life and quality of life. Though you can extend the “life” of a love one with technology long after nature, in her mercy, would have taken them, it doesn mean that you should. There is a reason why they call pneumonia the “friend of the elderly”.

    Alright, Gates, then we won’t treat you for Pneumococcal Pneumonia or immunize you against it, either. And by inference, your same meta-ethic above should apply to you in regard to all of the other causes of pneumonia and, indeed, to everything else under the sun now treatable or preventable – age also not necessarily having anything to do with evaluating the “quality” of a person’s life, as is already well demonstrated when it comes to the matter of freely aborting even their possible existence as a “person”.

    Therefore, according to you, Gates, you should at least do yourself a favor and construct a living will to this effect immediately!

    After all, you surely don’t want to wait around chancing the possibility that Obamacare might not come into full effect to do these same kinds of things for you but more slowly and haphazardly, by “law” and mere bureaucratic death panels, “cost containment” principles, and someone else’s calculation of your own “complete life” value, right?

    But even much more urgently important to many people like you, you need to act very quickly in order to more immediately lower society’s overall expenditures and the use of critical resources, whose use would otherwise threaten sustainability!

    In the same light, Gates, if you really do want to go back to the Stone Age in general, so as to rely on the beneficence of your friend, Nature, to take better care of you and your lifestyle, you must get with it now on all fronts!…Hey, the way a lot of green Environmentalists are also talking about their own roles in CO2’s potential “destruction of creation”, you should even have plenty of company!

  244. ‘Sustainability’, as defended here by some, and as used by certain NGOs, is simply the modern, latest form of the romanic ‘back to nature’ call, starting with Rousseau and trailing through the literature ever since.
    It is something the urban elites cherish, as a dream of the good life in beautiful thatched cottages, clad in climbing roses, where the sun shines during the day and the rain comes at night, and where everything grows without any actual work.
    It is most certainly not something dreamt of by those who actually farm, Wendell Berry and A physicist notwithstanding.

    ‘Sustainability’ has a dark basis, which is the Malthusian concept, beloved by certain AGW proponents, of overpopulation as the evil which must be eradicated.
    Given the very finite land available for farming – how many city dwellers would be able to live ‘sustainably’, according to the precepts of Berry? You do the maths … and ask yourselves what should happen to those who cannot be accommodated.

    There is one other thread associated with ‘sustainability’, which never gets talked about. That is the longing of the proponents of this ‘back to nature’ call for a feudal society, where said proponents will of course form the new feudal elites.
    Those who still think ‘sustainability’ is a lovely idea ought to surf the net and find out a bit more about the infamous ‘Blut und Boden’ ideology and what that would have meant in practice, had its application not been prevented by certain events.

  245. I am 48 years old.
    When I was 13, a great many “experts” predicted a great many different calamities to happen in the next 30 years based on “population bomb” theory.
    Thirty five years later, nothing has changed.
    Yet the theory is as revered as ever, untouched by 35 years of abject failure because the experts KNOW that they’ll be proven correct, just maybe in the next 35. Or maybe the next after that. Or…

    And that is what hubris gets us – nothing.

  246. R. Gates;
    Nice reductionism. You could break an apple down to the individual elements…so much carbon, oxygen, etc., but it would not tell you about what the essence the apple is. If you cannot see that the Earth and all the systems of minerals, oceans, atmosphere, magnetosphere, etc., add up to a life sustaining whole, then I feel very sorry for you and leave you to contemplate your pile of dead elements that once was an apple and the notion that the whole is far more than the sum of the parts.>>>

    Actually what that would leave me with is a good understanding of what elements are required to grow apples. Combined with an understanding of the bio-chemical processes of the growing process, I can now understand what elements the soil should be enriched with to enhance the growth of apples.

    While you are wailing away about the “essence” of the apple and waving your arms about the “life sustaining whole” that you claim I cannot see… I’m doing exactly what you accuse me of and as a result supplying the world with more apples, bigger apples, disease free apples, delivered around the world fresh, as needed, when needed, and from less land than would othwerwise be needed, and on land that otherwise would be barren.

    Which world do you want to live in R. Gates? My world where there’s plenty of fresh apples at a reasonable cost and the most likely cause of death is old age? Or your world where the “essence” of the apple is some sort of mysterious part of the “life sustaining whole” and fresh apples are so rare that that you grow up stunted due to nutritional deficiencies and die an early death from starvation or plague.

    Contemplate away R. Gates on your essence of life while the rest of us work our butts off to ensure you have food on your plate. You don’t want our kinda food, don’t eat it. But stop insisting that we have to starve to death with you.

    BTW, nice try avoiding all the other points I made. Shall I re-post them to remind you of all the issues I raised which you carefully ignored while introducing the boneheaded idea that breaking the apple down into itz componants was something sad and useless?

  247. R. Gates says:
    December 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    “I like this post Willis. You’ve brought up some interesting notions– many of which I’ve thought long and hard about for many decades. Actually, in the very very long view of things you’re right– nothing is sustainable as times arrow and entropy certainly move in only one way across this universe and eventually all the useful energy will be gone, and our universe will be cold and quiet. But there may be other universe’s in this multiverse of ours, so somewhere else life and consciousness will likely carry one.
    But to you point about sustainability. The lessons we can learn from nature are enormous. Somehow, for hundreds of millions of years the earth has found a way to sustain life. Despite meteor stikes and great extinctions, snowball earth’s and massive volcansim, life has found a way. Life has been sustainable. What lessons can we take from nature as to how to conduct our own life and civilizations?”
    ———————————————-
    It is not that “the earth has found a way to sustain life”, life itself found ways to survive. that’s the simple fact. Life through evolution found ways to adapt and best use the resources that were available at the respective time. Actually not at all through “sustainable development”.
    ———————————————-
    R. Gates says:
    “1) Use only what you really need. Excesses of use lead to all sorts of imbalances. Lions don’t kill every gazelle. If they did, both would go extinct.
    2) Use energy that is as closely associated with contemporary solar energy as possible. Wind, direct solar, food, etc. are all examples of “current solar” energy. This is in direct contrast to “old solar” in the forms of fossil fuels.
    3) Build for reuse, and reuse to build. Everything that is manufactured should have a high degree of reusablility and everything that is manufactured should be made as much as possible from reused materials versus “virgin” materials. This is the way nature has done it for millions of years and it has worked pretty darn well. ”
    ———————————————-
    Lions don’t kill thinking about preserving the gazelle. They don’t kill only when they are not hungry and too lazy to kill for nothing – would that help them? Help the species go hunting without eating? Each species thinks very egoistically only to what they need. Humans are different, we have passed that level.
    What do I(we) really need? Do we need CERN? Do we need research? Do we need space agency? Do we need satellites? Do we need Internet? Do we need social networks? Do we need knowledge, literature, cinemas, theaters, science, medical treatment, anti-aging research, access to information? How to build rockets with solar energy? Moon flights? Flights to Mars? Who may decide what I really need? You? Some bureaucrat?
    This ideology is very close to the failed communism ideology – work and deliver what you can use what you need – which ends in work for the workers to fulfilling the needs of the wealthy – which in case of communist were the apparatchiks.
    The problem is the promoters of such ideology do not start it by themselves, build their own communities to live by their rules. No, they want us, they need us to work in their ponzi schemes. Well logically it wouldn’t work otherwise, it has been already proven.
    Combating waste and pollution is right, recycling makes sense, the ideology that is packed with it, that I don’t buy. Maybe we need to reinvent environmentalism and clean it from ideology.

  248. I agree that everything we extract from the earth is finite and that nothing lasts forever. But the phrase “Sustainable Development” needn’t be used as a straw man. The goal is to stop whole sale environmental destruction by conserving as much as we can for as long as we can while spreading the benefits of modern life to as many people as we can. And yes, that’s a tall order but we have a responsibility to those who come after us.

    Conservation and cooperation is the best way to ensure a decent life for everyone.

  249. Edo Japan is a good example of what sustainable development really means. It should be studied to see what lessons we can learn and apply in our time.

  250. Lars P said:

    “It is not that “the earth has found a way to sustain life”, life itself found ways to survive. that’s the simple fact. Life through evolution found ways to adapt and best use the resources that were available at the respective time. Actually not at all through “sustainable development”.”
    ——-
    That is one way to look at it, but I think gets back to a reductionistic perspective where Earth is simply a convenient host for life, which is then more of a fungus that rides around on it. A broader perspective reveals the fact that life and earth co-evolve together, and indeed, with many studies indicating that life on earth may have even been “seeded” from organic compounds raining down in meteors. From this perspective Earth can be seen more like a fertile seed waiting to be fertilized with the basis of life. And from this, an even wider perspective opens up in which the very structure of the solar system and galaxies lend themselves to the creation of planets that become complex living organisms. Just as it would be impossible for a single cell in your body to recognize the fact that it is part of a larger whole, so too, it is difficult to see that we might be part of something larger. The notion of man versus nature, and the idea of a rugged individualist run strong in our culture, and certainly have their place, but in terms of “sustainability”, it is the recognition that there is an interconnected web of life on this planet in which balance and harmony of the parts is the key. Excesses in any area can disrupt that web and break the sustainability. A “rugged individualist” cell in your body is also known by another name which is cancer, and if enough of these exist in your body, your body becomes unsustainable.

  251. Sailing a boat is like standing in a shower tearing up 100$ bills. (That’s racing. Cruising sailors only tear up 20’s and the shower comes and goes but you get the idea.)

  252. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:35 am
    “From this perspective Earth can be seen more like a fertile seed waiting to be fertilized with the basis of life.”

    I think you flipped the roles of seed and fertilizer there.

  253. Lars P. said:

    “Lions don’t kill thinking about preserving the gazelle. They don’t kill only when they are not hungry and too lazy to kill for nothing – would that help them? Help the species go hunting without eating? Each species thinks very egoistically only to what they need.”
    ——-
    You missed the point. Lions hunt and eat gazelles out of pure instinct. This is beyond any sort egotistical reason, as that is a human construct. And in that pure instinctual response, the lion guarantees the survivability of both species.

  254. Stephen Harris says:
    December 23, 2011 at 6:25 am

    I agree that everything we extract from the earth is finite and that nothing lasts forever. But the phrase “Sustainable Development” needn’t be used as a straw man. The goal is to stop whole sale environmental destruction by conserving as much as we can for as long as we can while spreading the benefits of modern life to as many people as we can. And yes, that’s a tall order but we have a responsibility to those who come after us.

    Conservation and cooperation is the best way to ensure a decent life for everyone.

    FYI on “sustainable development”, if you haven’t already read it:

    Aynsley Kellow says:
    December 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    …readers might enjoy my earlier contribution on this subject:

    http://www.science.org.au/events/sats/sats2002/kellow.html

  255. DirkH says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:46 am
    R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:35 am
    “From this perspective Earth can be seen more like a fertile seed waiting to be fertilized with the basis of life.”

    I think you flipped the roles of seed and fertilizer there.
    ———
    I agree that was a bit confusing, and instead of seed I should have said “egg” as I think Earth is more than just fertile ground, as the ground is simply a repository of moisture and minerals in which the seed grows, and hydroponics proves you don’t actually need the ” ground” at all. The relationship between organic compounds raining down on earth is more akin to the relationship between sperm and egg, where both are altered in the process and the life they create is more than the sum of the parts. in this sense, while we do call sperm “seed” they are actually not like seeds in the botanical sense, as they will not grow into a full organism without the other half.

  256. “sustainability”=shibboleth
    “climate change” = shibboleth
    “sustainable culture”=shibboleth
    “social justice”=shibboleth
    “A Physicist”=shibbolethist
    “Willis Eschenbach”=Shibbolethologist

  257. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Just as it would be impossible for a single cell in your body to recognize the fact that it is part of a larger whole, so too, it is difficult to see that we might be part of something larger….

    The notion of man versus nature, and the idea of a rugged individualist run strong in our culture, and certainly have their place, but in terms of “sustainability”, it is the recognition that there is an interconnected web of life on this planet in which balance and harmony of the parts is the key. Excesses in any area can disrupt that web and break the sustainability.

    Yes, Gates, it does depend upon how many neurons you have in your own “web”. Upon their connections, ability to learn and create, etc.. And, in your kind of case, upon the idea that yours are the one’s which know and should operate the whole damn place.

    Btw, Gates, are you by chance vying for a pivotal role in making Obamacare’s central decisions, or merely to succeed Kim Jong IL in North Korea?

  258. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:47 am

    You missed the point. Lions hunt and eat gazelles out of pure instinct. This is beyond any sort egotistical reason, as that is a human construct. And in that pure instinctual response, the lion guarantees the survivability of both species.

    A la Adam Smith…The invisible fang!

  259. Aynsley Kellow wrote:

    “We must reject nature as providing norms which guide how we must live and accept instead that we are part of a living, changing system; we can chose to accept, use, or control elements to make for a habitable existence, both singly and individually.”

    ——
    Very insightful. The term “norms” is a bit anthropomorphic though for what nature can provide, for certainly in terms of sustainability we can learn much from how natural ecosystems are sustained through balance and harmony of the parts, and nothing goes to ” waste” but is reused and recycled over various timeframes. In no way does this contradict the dynamic character of natural systems in that they are constantly in flux such that the ways in which balance is achieved and the very system itself changes greatly over time in response to internal and external forcings.

  260. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 8:01 am

    hydroponics proves you don’t actually need the ” ground” at all.

    I think the Oceans, Lakes, and Rivers might have already proven that, Gates. But does this mean that you no longer live in mortal fear of CO2’s allegedly Catastrophic effects, resulting from its alleged role in Sea Level Rise? Or do we all still have to seek higher ground immediately, or else accompany you right back to the Stone age, asap, “before it’s too late!” ….You know, because of the Precautionary Principle, and all. And if the latter, could you please start me off in the right direction by telling me whether I should get out of bed or not in the morning, or at any other time?

  261. Gareth Phillips says: “I’ve had this sort of conversation with my wife. She claims we need to use our salary wisely to sustain our family. I point out quite rightly that we will spend it all whatever happens, so why not blow it on having a good time before it disappears in inflation etc? She for her part claims that sustainable use of our income and resources is about maximising the use and potential of what we have and not being wasteful. Ah well, you’ll never convince some people eh!”

    LOL … Gareth, that’s an excellent common-sense post.

    After all everyone knows folks who indulge in magical thinking, like “Maybe those bills won’t come due (that is, climate change won’t happen)”. And also “Surely my lottery tickets will pay off (space-flight and other magical technologies will arrive in time to save us)”.

    We can all pity kids who inherit the problems created by parents who themselves never grew up … and who never faced their adult real-world responsibilities.

    Wendell Berry writes excellently upon the link between sustainability and adult responsibility.

  262. R. Gates said:
    “… the lion guarantees the survivability of both species.”

    Your scientific concept, Gates, has been well explained in Disney’s Lion King.

    You’ve created some bewilderment with the commenters here by trying to describe in English prose something that can only be illuminated when it’s chanted in Zulu and accompanied by English poetry:

    Nants ingonyama bagithi, Baba [Here comes a lion, Father]
    Sithi uhm ingonyama [Oh yes, it’s a lion]

    From the day we arrive on the planet
    And blinking, step into the sun
    There’s more to see than can ever be seen …

  263. ‘a physicist’ says:

    “…everyone knows folks who indulge in magical thinking, like ‘Maybe those bills won’t come due (that is, climate change won’t happen)”. And also “Surely my lottery tickets will pay off (space-flight and other magical technologies will arrive in time to save us)’.”

    Saying “climate change won’t happen” is a perfect example of psychological projection. Climate change always happens, and only the alarmist crowd disputes that fact [as in Mann’s pretending that there was no significant temperature variation prior to the industrial revolution]. The reference to being saved by space flight ties in perfectly with Mrs Keech’s Seekers, who believed that the flying saucer would save them. I wonder if ‘a physicist’ understands the perfect analogy between him and the Seekers, and how crazy he sounds to rational folks?

  264. R. Gates,

    Hiding I see. Do you think that not responding to my points in any way negates them? Do you think that anyone following this thread failed to notice that you have no answers and so just changed the subject?

    That would sort of be like making a bet, losing it, and then pretending that you didn’t.

    I suppose in your mind lots of arm waving about how wonderful it is that gazelles and lions live in some sort of harmony that humans should emulate erases the fact that lions and gazelles live short miserable lives that end in violent deaths or due to starvation and disease. We humans are lucky enough to have driven a wedge between ourselves and nature’s “harmony”.

  265. “John West says:
    December 22, 2011 at 8:19 am

    … the second law pertains to closed systems AND was never intended for systems large enough for the weak force of gravity to be anything more than a negligible influence. The solar system and the universe is evidence that order can arise from chaos”

    The Second Law was never intended? It is a physics foundation firmly nested in the thermodynamics that rules the Universe from right after the big bang. It knows no boundaries, so it doesn’t care about open, closed or isolated systems, entropy will always increase sooner or later. A closed system is just a human made up constraint to be able to understand the processes involved and measure/calculate entropy (and that is closed for matter not for energy)

    Entropy is nothing like chaos or disorder, it’s not simply about matter either, it’s about energy tending to spread over as many micro states (W) as possible, S = k*ln*W. The widely spread use of the words ‘chaos’ and ‘disorder’ for entropy in popular science texts leads to totally false assumptions about the Second Law.

    Under gravitation matter clumps together but eventually heat will be released into space (stars) and entropy rises, and the highest entropy is found in black holes which are very cold (remember a supernova blasts of its energy into space leaving the black hole).
    Entropy always wins in the end, but can be stalled or slowed for a while like in the case of chemical reactions that have to overcome an activation energy.

    Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
    – “The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
    – “So far as physics is concerned, time’s arrow is a property of entropy alone.”
    – “There is only one law of Nature—the second law of thermodynamics—which recognises a distinction between past and future. It stands aloof from all the rest. … It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organisation.

    Clausius
    – “The fundamental laws of the universe which correspond to the two fundamental theorems of the mechanical theory of heat.
    1. The energy of the universe is constant.
    2. The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.”

    Max Planck
    – “Nature never undertakes any change unless her interests are served by an increase in entropy.”

  266. JPeden says:
    December 23, 2011 at 8:41 am
    R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 8:01 am

    hydroponics proves you don’t actually need the ” ground” at all.

    I think the Oceans, Lakes, and Rivers might have already proven that, Gates. But does this mean that you no longer live in mortal fear of CO2′s allegedly Catastrophic effects, resulting from its alleged role in Sea Level Rise? Or do we all still have to seek higher ground immediately, or else accompany you right back to the Stone age, asap, “before it’s too late!” ….You know, because of the Precautionary Principle, and all. And if the latter, could you please start me off in the right direction by telling me whether I should get out of bed or not in the morning, or at any other time?
    ——-

    I have never lived in mortal fear of CO2’s effects. And in regard to the oceans, rivers, etc. They are carriers of dissolved nutrients, minerals, etc., and this, combined with water’s functionality in some photosynthesis processes, makes it integral for supporting life. To the best of our knowledge, water is essential for life.

  267. A physicist says:
    December 23, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Wendell Berry writes excellently upon the link between sustainability and adult responsibility.

    And, after all, Mr. Berry is an “agrarian” and an advocate for “agrarianism”, because….wait for it….he’s an agrarian writer! But having read his linked treatise, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he also had something to do with developing Climate Science’s Global Circulation Models! After all, “THE WAY OF INDUSTRIALISM” is going to destroy the world!

    Really, now, A physicist, what a pitiful display of the usual retreat to elitist verbiage actually in search of avoiding reality and responsibility, while also alleging to know it, and desiring to personally control it at large for the rest of us.

    Say, I’ve got an idea that even beats Berry’s own advocacy of a primal retreat to “agrarianism”: in order to promote “sustainability”, why don’t you mind the very personal business of your own mind first? That is, before you try to inflict your ethereal “ideas” upon the rest of us?

  268. R. Gates wrote on December 23, 2011 at 7:35 am:

    The notion of man versus nature, and the idea of a rugged individualist run strong in our culture, and certainly have their place, but in terms of “sustainability”, it is the recognition that there is an interconnected web of life on this planet in which balance and harmony of the parts is the key. Excesses in any area can disrupt that web and break the sustainability. A “rugged individualist” cell in your body is also known by another name which is cancer, and if enough of these exist in your body, your body becomes unsustainable.
    (My bold)

    Disguised by nice words like harmony and balance, here is the iron fist hidden under the velvet glove: humans are a cancer on this planet, because in their drive to make their lives better they arraign themselves against ‘Nature’ and disturb or even destroy Her Harmony and Balance and what-have -you.

    One wonders if it ever occurs to those blood-and-soil romantics that nature can and does inflict much greater damage on humans, than vice versa. Earthquakes and tsunamis, which have dominated the news this passing year, come to mind.

    I sincerely hope R.Gates doesn’t think these natural manifestations are a sign of ‘Nature’ getting rid of us cancerous humans.
    One does wonder, however, if the solution preferred by the R.Gateses of this world is for all of us to put our hands into our laps and submit to these natural events, not even trying to predict them or trying to work to minimise the damage, in case it is disturbing ‘The Balance’ and becomes unsustainable.

  269. A physicist says: Wendell Berry writes excellently upon the link between sustainability and adult responsibility.

    JPeden says: “Why don’t you mind the very personal business of your own mind first? That is, before you try to inflict your ethereal “ideas” upon the rest of us?”

    Mr. Berry intends that his essays will stimulate some readers to reflect upon the links between sustainability, citizenship, and responsibility, yet he appreciates that not every reader cares to do so.

  270. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Aynsley Kellow wrote:

    “We must reject nature as providing norms which guide how we must live and accept instead that we are part of a living, changing system; we can chose to accept, use, or control elements to make for a habitable existence, both singly and individually.”

    ——
    Very insightful. The term “norms” is a bit anthropomorphic though for what nature can provide, for certainly in terms of sustainability we can learn much from how natural ecosystems are sustained through balance and harmony of the parts, and nothing goes to ” waste” but is reused and recycled over various timeframes. In no way does this contradict the dynamic character of natural systems in that they are constantly in flux such that the ways in which balance is achieved and the very system itself changes greatly over time in response to internal and external forcings.
    ——————————————————-
    R. Gates, you are all over the place here (like all advocates of ‘sustainability’) because you haven’t got the faintest idea what precisely it is you are discussing – unlike Dr Kellow – BTW thanks, AK, for that link to a clear-headed discussion of the issues.

    Eco-systems are not ‘sustained’ through balance and harmony. Firstly, they are not ‘sustained’ at all – they are constantly changing, although often over very long time frames. How anyone with a scrap of knowledge about the history of the planet can waffle on about ecosystems as though they are static is one of the incomprehensible mysteries of the magical thinking that underpins so much ‘green’ ideology. And, there is a lot of ‘waste’ in natural systems, unless you imagine that, as Monty Python so eloquently put it, “Every Sperm is Sacred”. Actually, a farmer using IV techniques with a prize bull is much more in line with your no-waste beliefs. I doubt that those techniques would have been developed if we had all decided to be ‘sustainable’ in your terms 1000 years ago.

    You then go on to admit that ecosystems do change over time, negating your first point, such as it was.

    There is nothing mystical about a primary producer managing soil, or forests, or waterways on their land to conserve resources. It is just sound business practice. Letting your soil blow or wash away if you are a farmer is dumb, not evil. But it doesn’t disappear – it just goes somewhere else.

    As Dr Kellow points out, ‘sustainability’ is a means, not a thing. It is a way of mediating conflict and a catch-all cover for what the proponents really want to do. In most cases, what they want to do is reallocate resources according to their political convictions.

  271. Thanks for the compliment, Johanna.
    Problem is, many of these concepts are developed or supported by natural scientists who are blissfully unaware of the extent to which their values obtrude into their ‘scientific’ beliefs. There is a wonderful paper in Science by Matt Chew (with Laublichler, from memory) that points out just how shot through with (rather dark) human values is ecological science — and has been since day one when Haeckel (a rather dark character) coined the term. If you think ‘alien species’, ‘invasive species’, etc sound a bit xenophobic, you’d be right — but they square with Haeckel’s political views.

  272. johanna says: Letting your soil blow or wash away if you are a farmer is dumb, not evil. But it doesn’t disappear – it just goes somewhere else.

    LOL, johanna, it would surprise me to learn that you and/or Aynsley had ever farmed. `Cuz topsoil in the fields sure is more valuable than topsoil in the creek!

    Not every corporation feels this way, though. Sometimes the strategy that maximizes the bottom line to “mine the earth” to exhaustion in 20 years; the resulting near-term profits more than compensate for the ultimate ruin of the land. And corporate accountants will be happy to prove to you that that ruin was for the best.

    Your post made me reflect too that China’s river dolphins went extinct this year … the end of a twenty million year saga … or did these creatures “just go somewhere else”. Valhalla maybe? Oh well, more dolphins will evolve eventually, if we just wait a few million years. Or maybe, we’ll synthesize new dolphins in the laboratory?

    Or maybe its best not to care? After all, those dolphins had indeterminate monetary value, and no one had legal title to them.

  273. A physicist;
    LOL, johanna, it would surprise me to learn that you and/or Aynsley had ever farmed. `Cuz topsoil in the fields sure is more valuable than topsoil in the creek!>>>

    Yes. That’s why she said it would be dumb to let it blow away. That’s right there in the words you quoted from her comment.

    A physicist;
    Not every corporation feels this way, though. Sometimes the strategy that maximizes the bottom line to “mine the earth” to exhaustion in 20 years; the resulting near-term profits more than compensate for the ultimate ruin of the land.>>>

    What does strip mining a mountain top have to do with farming practices? A mining company clips the top off a mountain and that proves what about farming practices?

    A physicist;
    Your post made me reflect too that China’s river dolphins went extinct this year>>>

    Yes, obviously dolphins going extinct in China is a clear indication of poor farming practices in North America. Got it.

    A physicist;
    or did these creatures “just go somewhere else”.>>>

    Nope, they died. Which has what to do with soil blowing off fields in the wind?

    Honestly, do you just introduce completely unrelated snippets of information totaly at random? Or are you actually convinced that anything you said makes any sense at all?

  274. davidmhoffer asks ‘a physicist':

    “Honestly, do you just introduce completely unrelated snippets of information totaly at random?”

    He does that all the time. He’s nonsense on stilts.

  275. A physicist says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

    JPeden says: “Why don’t you mind the very personal business of your own mind first? That is, before you try to inflict your ethereal “ideas” upon the rest of us?”

    Mr. Berry intends that his essays will stimulate some readers to reflect upon the links between sustainability, citizenship, and responsibility, yet he appreciates that not every reader cares to do so.

    Yes, I do prefer to live in the real world of real “caring”, real “responsibility” and real “science”, instead of choosing to retreat to the imaginary, “academic”, one – complete with Warming Models and enough verbiage to choke any respectable paper shredder. The former one is the only one that matters. The latter one is simply not sustainable!

    They’re spoon feeding Casanova
    To make him feel more assured
    Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
    After poisoning him with words

    [Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”]

  276. R. Gates – Viv Evans says:December 23, 2011 at 10:52 am and Johanna says:December 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm – have pretty much answered, so no need for me to redo it.

  277. davidmhoffer says:
    December 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    What does strip mining a mountain top have to do with farming practices? A mining company clips the top off a mountain and that proves what about farming practices?

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

    It proves that farming practices often come to a grinding halt.

    Two examples.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ok_Tedi_Mine

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasberg_Mine

    Cheers.

  278. A physicist says: Not every corporation feels this way, though. Sometimes the strategy that maximizes the bottom line is to “mine the earth” to exhaustion in 20 years; the resulting near-term profits more than compensate for the ultimate ruin of the land.

    davidmhoffer asks: What does strip mining a mountain top have to do with farming practices? A mining company clips the top off a mountain and that proves what about farming practices?

    David, that’s exactly the kind of sober question that Wendell Berry’s writings and speeches on sustainability encourage folks to ask:

    Wendell Berry Speaks Out At I Love Mountains Rally

    Henry County farmer Wendell Berry urged the state’s politicians to accept their responsibility to end mountain top removal and other strip mining practices that are devastating the land and people of eastern Kentucky. Saying he had lost patience after opposing strip mining for 43 years, Berry called on the crowd to “stand in front of this destruction until it is stopped.”

    I defy anyone to listen to Wendell without respect for this farmer who speaks from the heart.

    On Wendell’s behalf, please allow me to say David, thank you very much for asking that question!

  279. Viv Evans says:
    December 23, 2011 at 10:52 am
    R. Gates wrote on December 23, 2011 at 7:35 am:

    The notion of man versus nature, and the idea of a rugged individualist run strong in our culture, and certainly have their place, but in terms of “sustainability”, it is the recognition that there is an interconnected web of life on this planet in which balance and harmony of the parts is the key. Excesses in any area can disrupt that web and break the sustainability. A “rugged individualist” cell in your body is also known by another name which is cancer, and if enough of these exist in your body, your body becomes unsustainable.
    (My bold)

    Disguised by nice words like harmony and balance, here is the iron fist hidden under the velvet glove: humans are a cancer on this planet, because in their drive to make their lives better they arraign themselves against ‘Nature’ and disturb or even destroy Her Harmony and Balance and what-have -you.

    One wonders if it ever occurs to those blood-and-soil romantics that nature can and does inflict much greater damage on humans, than vice versa. Earthquakes and tsunamis, which have dominated the news this passing year, come to mind.

    I sincerely hope R.Gates doesn’t think these natural manifestations are a sign of ‘Nature’ getting rid of us cancerous humans.
    One does wonder, however, if the solution preferred by the R.Gateses of this world is for all of us to put our hands into our laps and submit to these natural events, not even trying to predict them or trying to work to minimise the damage, in case it is disturbing ‘The Balance’ and becomes unsustainable.
    ——-
    The topic was sustainability, and the point I was making is the recognition that humans are part of a larger web of life is one aspect of creating a sustainable culture. As far as the damage that nature can inflict on humans and other forms of life, earthquakes and tsunamis are unintentional consequences of living in a chaotic world, but the intentional cruelty and suffering inflicted by humans on each other is far greater than anything nature might inflict.

  280. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:35 am

    A “rugged individualist” cell in your body is also known by another name which is cancer, and if enough of these exist in your body, your body becomes unsustainable.

    No, Gates, as proven over and over in America, a rugged individualist does not kill off everything in sight, including itself, like a cancerous cell often does by cloning enough of its own identicals in toto so as to starve its host, or to invade the wrong places, thereby destroying their providers with them. The cancerous cell is often just enough like the provider itself, such that the provider can’t distinguish it from itself so as to defeat it via its rather automatic immune system.

    No, instead that’s what you Big Green Parasites do when the rugged individualists make enough of an ecological niche for you to exist and act like cancerous cells yourselves, Instead of you thanking the stars for rugged individualists!

    If you’d only settle down and accept your good luck to even exist and live off the products created by America’s rugged individualists under their system of Constitutional Capitalism and Independence, maybe your own hominid sub-species would even be sustainable.

    But a warning to all of you congenital dependents: we rugged individualists are neither one-celled automatons nor billiard balls. And we do recognize you.

  281. SPM;
    What does strip mining a mountain top have to do with farming practices? A mining company clips the top off a mountain and that proves what about farming practices?
    =============================================================================
    It proves that farming practices often come to a grinding halt.
    Two examples>>>

    First, “A fake physicist” complains about farming practices and posts a link about strip mining as a reference, and when asked what that has to do with farming practices, SPM chimes in with links about the effect of mines on nearby farms.

    Hands up all you folks who thought they made sense.
    OK thanks.
    Now hands up all you folks that believe in CAGW.
    OK thanks.
    Now hands up all you folks that believe we should return to a primitive society and live in harmony with nature?
    OK thanks.
    Now hands up all you folks that think Phol Pot had a great idea and more people should have listened to him?

    Let’s see….same set of hands for the first three questions, but not for the last one. Odd that.

  282. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm
    , but the intentional cruelty and suffering inflicted by humans on each other is far greater than anything nature might inflict.
    ============
    Yet, the CAGW theory places more control into the hands of humans.

  283. A fake physicist;
    David, that’s exactly the kind of sober question that Wendell Berry’s writings and speeches on sustainability encourage folks to ask>>>

    I didn’t direct the question to Wendell Berry. I directed the question to you.
    Are you capable of answering the question?
    Or only capable of letting someone else’s words speak for you?

    If the former, then answer the question. If the latter, then you are just one of those people who let’s others do their thinking for them. If you cannot articulate the answer to my question in your own words, then it is unlikely that you actually understand what Wendell Berry said in the first place.

  284. Johanna said:

    “There is nothing mystical about a primary producer managing soil, or forests, or waterways on their land to conserve resources. It is just sound business practice. Letting your soil blow or wash away if you are a farmer is dumb, not evil. But it doesn’t disappear – it just goes somewhere else.”
    —–
    Of all the rather weak points you made this one seems the weakest. Your use of the terms “mystical” and “evil” are most revealing as to your general perspective on sustainability. There is nothing mystical about sustainability, and the term “evil” is a purely human construct without meaning in the natural world. And in regards to topsoil and erosion– top soil is a finite resource that can be sustained through specific practices, and for all practical purposes, it does disappear when it is washed away as it changes to a form that is unusable, whether because it is spread out thinly over a wide area by wind or washed to the bottom of the ocean. This is all in keeping with the increase in entropy in the universe, and from this perspective, sustainability is entropy management– rust will eventually eat your nice shovel away, but if you manage the entropy, by drying it off when it gets wet and keeping it clean and free from rust when the first few spot appear, it can be sustained at least as long as you will.

  285. R. Gates;
    The topic was sustainability, and the point I was making is the recognition that humans are part of a larger web of life is one aspect of creating a sustainable culture.>>>>

    So… did your hand go up when I asked who thought Phol Pot had good ideas? Seems like your ideals and his are pretty much a match. Well, he wanted to impose his ideas through armed conflict while you only want to make them the law.

    Of course when people start dieing of plague and starvation because of the law, they might have a tendency to break it. What then? Compliance by force of arms? Gee… we’re back to Phol Pot again.

  286. u.k.(us) says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm
    R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm
    , but the intentional cruelty and suffering inflicted by humans on each other is far greater than anything nature might inflict.
    ============
    Yet, the CAGW theory places more control into the hands of humans.
    ——-
    You are mistaking “cause” with “control”. You could back out of your driveway and run over you neighbors child and be the cause of their injury, but it would’t mean you had control. But as I am not a believer in C AGW, then I guess I really don’t care.

  287. R. Gates;
    top soil is a finite resource that can be sustained through specific practices>>>

    Of all the incredibly wrong things I’ve ever seen you spout, that one is possibly in a race for the crown of all time stupidity with saying the globes in Al Gore’s on air experiment were superflous. You clearly know squat about physics and if you think that top soil is a “finite resource” then you know squat about farming too.

    How is it that someone who knows SFA about the physics of global warming, and SFA about the basics of food production, has the unmittigated GALL to tell the rest of us how to raise food and what to do or not do about global warming?

  288. JPeden says:

    “No, instead that’s what you Big Green Parasites do when the rugged individualists make enough of an ecological niche for you to exist and act like cancerous cells yourselves, Instead of you thanking the stars for rugged individualists!”

    —–
    So, is it right or not to have laws that prohibit what chemicals that Company X can dump into a river? Mind you of course that this company was founded by and still operated by rugged individualists.

  289. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm
    ——————————————-
    Ah ha ha, straw man squared.

    I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while Gatesy: Do you have any peer-reviewed publications ?? If so, how many ?? Any in respectable journals ??

    I’m expecting:

    0

    0

    0

    …. but go on, surprise me.

  290. R. Gates;
    R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm
    Davidmhoffer,
    What on earth are you carrying on about now? Of course top soil is a finite resource, and apparently I know a great deal more about farming than you.
    For those aren’t sure which of us is correct see:>>>>

    My goodness, but you’ve descended from the absurd to the absolutely idiotic. You don’t even understand the very links you’ve posted to. They attempt to define top soil as being “finite” on the premise that it is eroding faster than it is regenerating. Putting aside for a moment that the data presented is in dispute, the very links that you point to actually SAY that top soil can be generated. How is it possible to generate new top soil if it is “finite”? You’re relying on a sloppy misrepresented definition to support a blatantly idiotic statement. For those who want to judge, here’s how to build top soil:

    1. Start with a field of clay.
    2. Plant potatoes for one to two years. The roots go surprisingly deep, and when the potatoes grow, they expand, busting up the clay.
    3. Grow hay crops for one to two years. Hay will grow even in clay. Bail the hay and feed it to your cattle. Pile the manure up from the cattle in a heap. Plow the stubble under.
    4. Begin growing cereal crops, starting with crops like wheat and then rotating with crops like oats and barley. Intersperse with summer fallow crops like clover. Continue plowing the stuble under.
    5. After a few years of this your dung heap from the cattle will be large enough and rotted enough to spread on the field. Plow that under too.
    6. Begin moving to nitrogen fixers like peas. You’ll have enough top soil by now to support them, and the additional nitrogen will produce better crops the following years.
    7. Start moving from plowing stubble under to zero till.
    8. Continue rotating crops and spreading manure.

    Presto. Top soil.

    Never argue farming with a farm boy, especially by throwing up what are nothing more than alarmist links that manage to define things for alarmist purposes. Not only is the notion idiotic, arguing it with a farm boy makes you look stupid.

  291. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm
    u.k.(us) says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm
    R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm
    , but the intentional cruelty and suffering inflicted by humans on each other is far greater than anything nature might inflict.
    ============
    Yet, the CAGW theory places more control into the hands of humans.
    ——-
    You are mistaking “cause” with “control”. You could back out of your driveway and run over you neighbors child and be the cause of their injury, but it would’t mean you had control. But as I am not a believer in C AGW, then I guess I really don’t care.
    =========
    But, I do care, that’s why I’m here.
    Trying to halt the rabid rush our politicians have embarked upon, to protect ourselves from ourselves, and collect a tax for the privilege.
    It is not personal, but it is serious.

  292. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    So, is it right or not to have laws that prohibit what chemicals that Company X can dump into a river? Mind you of course that this company was founded by and still operated by rugged individualists.

    Gates, if you could just give it up, and turn to and see the light of free thought, freedom, and the system here in America which was founded by truly rugged individualists and thus protects and fosters the aforementioned capacities and values, you would. But you obviously can’t. No, you just have to keep pecking away at successful people and systems, like a mutant termite.

    America’s Constitutional Capitalism has laws in regard to this specific area – Constitutionally formed – as I’ve already implied in response to your smear job on “rugged individualists” – who you apparently wrongly picture as identical to yourself as to their intellectual and psychological make-ups . Gates, it is most likely from your own self and its needs that you are projecting this picture upon others. In other words, you fear yourself.

    Otherwise, please tell me what “Company” or “Big Corporation” you talking about. Or has the production of its steel or Windmill magnetos been effectively “exported” to China, where there are no such laws? And in response to your own effectively inherent nature as a Big needy greedy Green Parasite, bent upon engineering and controlling the destruction of the very system, energy, and people that support you – simply because you don’t want to look at and know yourself first; and perhaps in response to the fact that you actually fear your own existence and self-knowledge – and the fact that we rugged individualists don’t – even more than you fear your own death?

    Btw, Gates, I walk the walk when it comes to personally protecting and sustaining myself, the Earth’s resources, and the and my environment in a reasonable and responsible fashion. What do you do?

    Is anybody listening
    Oh oh ooo
    There’s no response at all

    [Phil Collins]

  293. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Johanna said:

    “There is nothing mystical about a primary producer managing soil, or forests, or waterways on their land to conserve resources. It is just sound business practice. Letting your soil blow or wash away if you are a farmer is dumb, not evil. But it doesn’t disappear – it just goes somewhere else.”
    —–
    Of all the rather weak points you made this one seems the weakest. Your use of the terms “mystical” and “evil” are most revealing as to your general perspective on sustainability. There is nothing mystical about sustainability, and the term “evil” is a purely human construct without meaning in the natural world. And in regards to topsoil and erosion– top soil is a finite resource that can be sustained through specific practices, and for all practical purposes, it does disappear when it is washed away as it changes to a form that is unusable, whether because it is spread out thinly over a wide area by wind or washed to the bottom of the ocean. This is all in keeping with the increase in entropy in the universe, and from this perspective, sustainability is entropy management– rust will eventually eat your nice shovel away, but if you manage the entropy, by drying it off when it gets wet and keeping it clean and free from rust when the first few spot appear, it can be sustained at least as long as you will.
    ———————————————————————————-
    R. Gates, you were the one rabbitting on about the harmony of nature, stable ecosystems, how nature never wastes anything etc. This is mysticism, not science, and it posits human activity as malevolent and hostile to Gaia. No good backing away now. It’s what you said.

    I am glad that you acknowledge that looking after the soil is good farming practice, without which a farmer would sooner or later go broke. Farming does, however, involve messing up some of those pristine ecosystems you are so fond of, and replacing them with man-made ones. To be consistent with your views about ‘sustainability’, a heck of a lot of people would be starving now. Imagine if every piece of farmland on the planet reverted to its natural state and there had to be an environmental impact statement before a sod could be turned or a cow released to graze. Do you think that people with your views would allow even a fraction of the land currently used for agriculture to have its ‘natural harmony’ destroyed so that we could eat?

    Topsoil blowing away on a ploughed field has nothing to do with entropy, unless you are saying that the manmade crop field the soil came from is part of the natural universe, which it patently isn’t. And to then elide that into saying that because the soil has become unusable for the farmer, it has disappeared, is just pea and thimble stuff. You don’t get away with that here, as you should have learned by now.

    On a more positive note, thank you Aynsley Kellow for the reference to the Matthew Chew paper. That, and other stuff he has written on the ideology and assumptions underlying the ecological ‘sciences’ came up on a quick Google. Others who are interested in this field might like to check his work out.

  294. @A physicists, says:

    Mr. Berry intends that his essays will stimulate some readers to reflect upon the links between sustainability, citizenship, and responsibility, yet he appreciates that not every reader cares to do so.,,,,

    ….On Wendell’s behalf, please allow me to say David, thank you very much for asking that question!

    I’m beginning to get the idea that you are now Wendell Berry’s Butler?

  295. JPeden,

    You never answered the question, but chose rather to beat your chest and lecture whilst all puffed up on your own rugged-individualist self importance. You seem to want to paint the world in shades of black and white, much like the shallow minded pundits of the radio and television programs which simplify the important issues the day to the point that they no longer represent reailty– all so they can keep their listeners hyped up on an us vs. them mentality, when the truth is they only serve to bring division and mistrust to this Republic of ours.

    It was a simple question JPeden: do we need environmental laws that protect our air, water, and food supply from toxic materials that companies might otherwise chose to deposit there? Or do you think that rugged individualists who mind begin and grow such companies are just naturally going to take care so as not to pollute?

    And it’s nice to know that you “walk the walk” when it comes to personally protecting and sustaining yourself, (though you probably meant “walk the talk”), though of course you know you’d be nothing without the millions of other people who indirectly or directly support your existence on the earth in this hugely interconnected collective civilization we have now. And even beyond that, if you were a wild man living in the jungles, surviving by instinct and cunning, you’d at least be wise enough to know that very jungle is a web of interconnected life and any separation from that web is only an illusion of the ego.

  296. Johanna said:

    R. Gates, you were the one rabbitting on about the harmony of nature, stable ecosystems, how nature never wastes anything etc. This is mysticism, not science, and it posits human activity as malevolent and hostile to Gaia. No good backing away now. It’s what you said.
    —-
    Never once did I state that human activity was malevolent and hostile to “Gaia”, and never did I use the term “Gaia”. In fact, I hate the term Gaia when talking about the complexities of interrelated systems that maintain life on this planet. Did your parents not teach you it was wrong to lie about things, and especially wrong to lie about others actions?

  297. R. Gates;
    One more point to add to the lessons on farming from Johanna, JPeden and me. While you wail away about the web of life, and top soil being finite, we’re busy transforming land that will barely grow grass into rich soil that can produce grain and vegetables in abundance. What might have supported a handfull of goats can 10 or 15 years later provide food for thousands.

    And here’s the most important part of that R. Gates. Without oil, it couldn’t be done. The horsepower it takes to drag even an 8 foot cultivator through clay based soil is immense. Without fossil fuels, it would take thousands of workers to accomplish what a single farmer with a small tractor can do. It would be cost prohibitive to build the soil in that fashion, and hence, it would never be done.

    So take your harmony with nature bullsh*t and shove it. It is human effort and ingenuity that transforms barren land into productive land that feeds billions of people. Without human interferance into what nature provides, billions would starve.

    The notion that we are somehow destroying nature to our detriment just doesn’t stand up. Oh we’re destroying nature all right. The reason we have billions of people on this planet, the vast bulk of which are well fed and live longer and healthier than any generation that came before them, is that we do not bow to nature.

    We’re not animals unless we choose to be.

    Choose what you will for yourself. Do not presume to choose for the rest of us.

  298. Johanna said:

    “Topsoil blowing away on a ploughed field has nothing to do with entropy, unless you are saying that the manmade crop field the soil came from is part of the natural universe, which it patently isn’t”
    —-
    Human activity is not part of the natural universe? If a manmade crop field is not part of the natural universe, which universe is it part of? You see, the distinction between “manmade” and ” natural” is a construct of the human mind, when in fact there is no division between you and the natural universe. Human activity, including plowing and planting fields obeys the law of increasing entropy in the universe for we are as much a part of the whole as everything else.

  299. Davidmhoffer,

    Nice description of the creation of fertile topsoil. Of course you know you’ve proven by this very description that it is a finite resource, as it certainly isn’t infinite ( at least not here on earth). When practicing organic based agriculture, the management of topsoil is a key concern, but of course, large scale non- organic farming relies more on petrochemical based fertilizers whereby the quality of topsoil becomes secondary. Perhaps this is the kind of farming you did.

  300. And it’s nice to know that you “walk the walk” when it comes to personally protecting and sustaining yourself, (though you probably meant “walk the talk”),

    As I understand it, one may be able to “talk the talk”, but unless they can “walk the walk”, meaning follow through, they they’re just blowing smoke. “Walk the talk” makes no sense.

  301. R. Gates;
    large scale non- organic farming relies more on petrochemical based fertilizers whereby the quality of topsoil becomes secondary.>>>

    Wrong. Any farming practice that treats topsoil as secondary results in exactly the erosion you were whining about earlier.

  302. Davidmhoffer said:

    “The notion that we are somehow destroying nature to our detriment just doesn’t stand up. Oh we’re destroying nature all right. The reason we have billions of people on this planet, the vast bulk of which are well fed and live longer and healthier than any generation that came before them, is that we do not bow to nature.”
    ———
    What an odd rubric to use as a measurement of human success. “Billions” of people, living “longer” etc. It reminds me of those who judge their own success by quantity rather than quality. It is not how long someone lives, or how much money they have accumulated, or how big their portfolio is, or how big their house is, etc., but simply how we live our lives. So too, the success of species should not be judged by how many of us are living on this planet, but how we are living on this planet.

  303. R. Gates;
    Nice description of the creation of fertile topsoil. Of course you know you’ve proven by this very description that it is a finite resource, as it certainly isn’t infinite>>>>

    For practical purposes it is infinite as it is possible to create more than we can use. If you want to define things based on the end of the universe when entropy runs out a few trillion years from now, well we all may as well lay down and die right now.

  304. R. Gates;
    You see, the distinction between “manmade” and ” natural” is a construct of the human mind>>>

    In that case we can do whatever we want as any effect we have on your prescious web of life is just part of the natural universe. This hasn’t been a good day for you R. Gates, you’ve taken talking out of both sides of your mouth to whole new heights.

  305. Jeff Alberts says:
    December 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm
    =========
    Thanks for the clarification, and your contribution to society.
    The post was about “sustainability”, care to comment ?

  306. R. Gates;
    Did your parents not teach you it was wrong to lie about things, and especially wrong to lie about others actions?>>>

    What did your parents teach you? Did they teach you that when you make a bet and flat out lose, to welch? Did they teach you to take zero responsibility for your own actions? Did they teach you to pretend that when confronted with the cold hard facts of your own folly to wave your arms and try and redefine the bet?

    Is that what they taught you? Or did you come up with these things all on your own?

    I followed the discourse between you and Johanna. Frankly, you have stooped to new lows today.

  307. Jeff Alberts says:
    December 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm
    And it’s nice to know that you “walk the walk” when it comes to personally protecting and sustaining yourself, (though you probably meant “walk the talk”),

    As I understand it, one may be able to “talk the talk”, but unless they can “walk the walk”, meaning follow through, they they’re just blowing smoke. “Walk the talk” makes no sense.
    ——–
    You need to get out more or really listen more carefully. Suggest you Google all three expressions: “walk the talk”, “walk the walk”, and ” talk the talk”. Walk the talk means your actions match your words, but walk the walk would mean your actions match your actions, which becomes a meaningless tautology– but perhaps that is what JPeden meant.

  308. R. Gates;
    What an odd rubric to use as a measurement of human success. “Billions” of people, living “longer” etc.>>>

    Longer, healthier, bigger, stronger, faster, better educated… that’s an odd rubric? So you favour short, unhealthy lives filled with disease, famine, bigotry and violence?

    Stop R. Gates, just stop.

  309. R. Gates said:

    What an odd rubric to use as a measurement of human success. “Billions” of people, living “longer” etc.

    Odd? Every one of those billions is someone’s child—a child that did not die young. Like you, Gates, see?

  310. davidmhoffer says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm
    R. Gates;
    You see, the distinction between “manmade” and ” natural” is a construct of the human mind>>>

    In that case we can do whatever we want as any effect we have on your prescious web of life is just part of the natural universe.


    Indeed we can and indeed it is. If you agree with this then we finally agree on something. Just as if a tsunami strikes and kills thousands or a bomb is dropped that does the same– both follow the same laws of the universe, with the distinction being that we can chose. We are a conscious part of the natural world. How will we use that ability?

  311. u.k.(us) says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm
    ==========================
    Was your contribution any better than mine?

    Didn’t think so.

    Would anyone care what I think about sustainability?

    Didn’t think so.

  312. R. Gates wrote on December 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm:

    “… if you were a wild man living in the jungles, surviving by instinct and cunning, you’d at least be wise enough to know that very jungle is a web of interconnected life and any separation from that web is only an illusion of the ego.”

    What a surprise – the famous ‘wild’ but ‘wise’ man living in the jungle, from Rousseau by way of A.Huxley straight to the green mystical religion.

    A cursory glace at how humanity evolved, and how human society evolved from hunter-gatherers by way of domestication of animals and plants to the first towns in the Middle East shows that it is about survival, of family groups and tribes aiming to have some food surplus to make up for times where food is not available.

    Interestingly, all who warble about the wise wild man never ever take into account that one man has obviously not got a family, nor children. So his ‘wisdom’ will be lost with his death. A great recipe for the survival of the species! Any animal is doing better, because reproduction of the species is the driving force in evolution. But that is one of the astonishing facets those people exhibit, unknowingly: while paying lip service to Darwin and to evolution, their aim seems to be to halt evolution now, or even to roll it back, to a mystical past where there are only a few people living in that fabulous web.

    May I respectfully suggest that R.Gates and the rest scroll up a bit and look at the cartoon Willis showed in one of his replies …

  313. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    “What an odd rubric to use as a measurement of human success. “Billions” of people, living “longer” etc. It reminds me of those who judge their own success by quantity rather than quality. It is not how long someone lives, or how much money they have accumulated, or how big their portfolio is, or how big their house is, etc., but simply how we live our lives. So too, the success of species should not be judged by how many of us are living on this planet, but how we are living on this planet.”
    ========
    Try to sell that story in the slums in India.
    You have it so good, so do I, that you don’t know what “poor” means.
    It is easy to find out, throw away your wallet and live in the street.
    Report back when/if you make enough money to contribute here.

  314. Thanks, david hoffer, you saved me some typing.

    Further to my comment above, here is a superb article by Matthew Chew (h/t Aynsley Kellow) which demolishes the eco-nonsense underlying the preservation of ‘natural’ ecosystems mantra brick by brick:

    http://asu.academia.edu/MattChew/Papers/450641/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_Biotic_Nativeness_A_Historical_Perspective

    Chew demonstrates that the whole concept of ‘nativeness’ and by implication that certain species ‘belong’ somewhere and deserve protection to be utterly unscientific and founded on Victorian legal and pre-Darwinian notions about citizenship and botany.

    He doesn’t say that we should not get rid of pests and weeds; just that defending it on the basis of ‘preserving’ an environment or ecosystem is utter bunkum.

    As I write from Australia, a country where eucalypts killed off most of the opposition trees millions of years ago, this has great resonance for me. It’s not that they have some quasi religious right to be here – it’s that they won the struggle by poisioning the competition (and still do).

    The story of the re-introduction of water frogs in Britain in this article is worth the price of admission alone. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  315. Viv Evans,

    You nicely described the natural evolution of the human species with the included fact we indeed are social. In each step along the way, humans have expanded their reach and impact upon their environment, right up to the present day when not only is our reach and impact global, but extends off the planet in small but growing ways. From the very beginnings in our simple agriculture and farming, up to today, we had to learn the rules of nature in order to be successful in the environment we were living in and affecting. This is the natural evolution of he human mind. The global reach of human civilization requires we understand the rules of climate to continue to be successful. We’ve always been up to the task. We have challenges ahead but those make us grow

  316. Wellington says:
    December 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm
    R. Gates said:

    What an odd rubric to use as a measurement of human success. “Billions” of people, living “longer” etc.

    Odd? Every one of those billions is someone’s child—a child that did not die young. Like you, Gates, see?
    ———–
    Six million children die of hunger every year. If you want to measure human success by quantity, why not use this one? Your own values will dictate what you want to call success. Personally, I favor quality over quantity. How we live is far more important to me than how many of us do or how long we do. If there were only 1 billion humans on earth but none went hungry– that to me would be success. Now that we have seven billion of us, under my value system, success will be getting all seven billion fed adequately.

  317. Willis: To some extent, I think AGW the science is dead. From my personal perspective, I note the following. The hindcasts are under siege. Borehole data does not match. There appears to be very little, if any, predictive value in the models. Pro AGW sites like Real Climate live by censorship to keep the faithful believing. The battle lines have been drawn, there is very little ability to change the faithful, and now it is a question of policy makers.

    The iron is now hot. Solyndra failed. The Volt, with its $225K per car subsidy has failed. The Chinese export nearly all of their solar panels. People three years ago thinking about “Green Energy” are not engaging in that as a career. Canada is withdrawing. Russia is opposed. China could care less. Democrats are vulnerable as carbon sequestration of coal plants is a bust, and they rely on coal minor unions for votes. And China has locked up the solar panel market. Let’s let them suffer for their foolishness.

    In my view, it is a good time to attack the politics of the problem. Of course, certain politicians want to create a “One World Government,” in which some external threat, in this case AGW, can unify the world. There is opportunity in this. Solar is a fail, as you’ve pointed out. So why not promote ideas that are good for the US under these circumstances? The political wheel runs on much longer scales and different goals than science. Due to the nature of the problem, proving one way or the other is not going to happen for forty years.

    Let them have their AGW. But let’s use the opportunity to pursue better alternatives. A new policy needs to be forged, one that is hopefully in the interests of the US. Let us unwind the insanity of Al Gore, with his “electric fleet in 10 years.” Let’s align with ideas of cheap, clean energy on the order of coal. Promote the idea that electric generation is a far easier problem than becoming independent from oil (no plastics, no cars, no fertilizer).

    I think nuclear development is reasonable defensible answer.

    Observing that electric generation is the huge C02 producer, and working the political system, which has nothing to do with science (AGW “science” is only a tool), can yield greater energy prosperity. We can export it to the world. There are still many very intelligent people in the US, so let’s move the discussion from “renewables” to terrorist proof nuclear that can solve the democrats ideals of helping out the impoverished in the world. It doesn’t matter if their methods are wrong, the point is to use the system for a better outcome.

    In other words, let’s pop up a level, and look to what’s going to happen in twenty, thirty years, and start to promote within the confines of the political system a result we can all live with.

    Anyway, it’s not the kind of Science we all want. But it’s the kind of policy perhaps our leaders can deal with, and leave the US in a better position than the track we are on. The failures are there that provide leverage to a better alternative, and now is the time to let go of things that won’t change anyone’s mind, and to grab something bigger.

  318. RE: 1DandyTroll: (December 22, 2011 at 3:05 am)
    “Why have we been able to mine one of the scarcest metals for some 7000 years and still we’re not running low?”

    I am not so sure about that, several months ago, Google found this quote for me at the Oil Drum web site:

    “Drumbeat: November 14, 2009
    “Looking Back at Peak Global Production of…Gold
    “Posted by Heading Out on November 14, 2009 – 10:16am
    “Topic: Supply/Production
    “Tags: gold [list all tags]

    “Yesterday the President of the largest gold mining and production company, Barrick Gold, noted that after ten years of declining production it is time to recognize that the world has seen the peak in gold production. To maintain production ore is being mined with increasingly less gold in it. (The grade of the ore, or metal content, defines whether it is profitable to mine.)

    “Ore grades have fallen from around 12 grams per tonne in 1950 to nearer 3 grams in the US, Canada, and Australia. South Africa’s output has halved since peaking in 1970.

    “The supply crunch has helped push gold to an all-time high, reaching $1,118 an ounce at one stage yesterday.”

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5960

    Some have compared this site to Realclimate…

    “The Oil Drum is a web-based, interactive energy, peak oil and sustainability think tank and community devoted to the discussion of energy issues and their impact on society. The Oil Drum is facilitated by the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future, a Colorado non-profit corporation.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oil_Drum

  319. RE: R. Gates: (December 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm)
    “Bottom line: Life on Earth (and in this universe) might not be infinitely sustainable, as entropy will eventually have it’s way, but for all practical puposes, if we watch the methods nature has evolved, we can learn how to be practical sustainable in our lives and in our civilizaitons.”

    All well and good, but as regards the use of carbon power, I believe the time to invoke these considerations was *before* we increased global population by a factor of eight by depending on that resource. Now it is imperative that science produce an alternate, abundant, and indefinitely sustainable source of energy or the world may be due for a painful period of population downsizing as the Earth’s carbon power stores run out. There are some, yet to be fully developed, alternative nuclear power options that may yet avert this fate.

    It may be possible to support a global population larger than that of 1880 with advanced solar-renewable techniques, but I seriously doubt that the expansive green energy collection installations required could economically support anything like our current global population level.

  320. davidmhoffer says:
    December 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    First, “A fake physicist” complains about farming practices and posts a link about strip mining as a reference, and when asked what that has to do with farming practices, SPM chimes in with links about the effect of mines on nearby farms.

    Hands up all you folks who thought they made sense.
    OK thanks…………………………………………………………

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

    Well, how many hands did you see Dave ??????

    Oh and BTW….

    I wish you a hopeful Christmas
    I wish you a brave New Year
    All anguish pain and sadness
    Leave your heart and let your road be clear

  321. Since Me comment has been awaiting moderation this long, I guess it will be sniped. Well, as they say, piss or get off the pot, so get it over with already or post it.

  322. R. Gates;
    Six million children die of hunger every year. If you want to measure human success by quantity, why not use this one? Your own values will dictate what you want to call success. Personally, I favor quality over quantity. How we live is far more important to me than how many of us do or how long we do. If there were only 1 billion humans on earth but none went hungry– that to me would be success.>>>

    To save 6 million you would sentence 6 billion to death.
    You disgust me.

  323. Not to mention, BTW, that the children who die of hunger in this world of ours do so, not because we cannot produce enough food to feed them, but because they had the misfortune of being born in places like North Korea, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Somalia…

    What is preventing those children from growing up strong and health is not lack of food. It is their own governments which cling to power through repression. Fix that sir, and you will save their lives. Instead you propose to visit the sins of those governments upon us in some kind of twisted logic where you advocate for the very policies that are the cause of their misery while pissing all over the very policies that have delivered billions from that misery.

    You disgust me, R. Gates.

  324. Gates:

    I’m afraid that you’ve fortified yourself in your position so well that you can’t see over the ramparts anymore.

    Six million children die of hunger every year?

    If you’d peek over your bulwark for just a moment you’d know that the reason why people are dying of hunger today has little to do with the sustainability of human life on this planet as defined in your thread of arguments. The cynical part of me expected you’d just throw something like that back over your wall again and warned that I was wasting my time but my well-abused better angels asked to try one more time. I hate it when the cynic is proven right but, well, I am used to it.

    Good bye, Gates, peace and love to you in this Christmas season.

  325. Spector,

    I agree with everything you wrote. The boom in energy production and food production was brought about by the rapid increase in the use of fossil fuels. We borrowed stored sunlight from the past to rapidly grow our current civilization, and we probably can’t gather enough current solar (and derivatives like wind and wave) to maintain ourselves. Fusion in the long term, or in the short term thorium fission, may be the best alternatives.

  326. R. Gates says:
    December 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    JPeden,

    You never answered the question…

    Yes I did. And it is you who is “begging the question”, while you also later concede that you have no question by making everything you say completely conditional upon your own arbitrary assemblage of appearances and sounds, etc., [words], which then in effect means to me here in the real world that all you are doing is making random keystrokes and noises. Just as I suspected!

    And that, according to you, we can do anything we want to the natural world as davidmhoffer says: December 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm; which is probably pretty close to what you, Gates and your Big Green Parasites, want to have the power to do in the first place, not we “rugged individualists”.

    Well, Merry Christmas anyway, Gates.

    [Although, based upon your own theory of linguistic meaning, you can’t possibly know whether you know what I meant by that particular assemblage of keystrokes, and I likewise can’t possibly know if I am able to understand anything you “say” or able to communicate anything at all back to you, including what I just wrote.

  327. So R. Gates, you don’t want to admit you’re a trained scientist with zero peer-reviewed publications or what ?

  328. By visiting the nonpartisan site GoodReads we can check for ourselves the prevailing values of America’s readers. For Bjørn Lomborg we find only one contributed quotation, which is liked by only one reader:

    “Only when we get sufficiently rich can we afford the relative luxury of caring about the environment.” ― Bjørn Lomborg

    For Wendell Berry we find more than two hundred contributed quotations, which are liked by many thousands of readers. Among Berry’s highest-rated quotes, one of my favorites is a poem:

    Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.

    Do long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men. Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?

    Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.

    Among American citizens who read, and who share their ideas, there is no doubt of whose ideas are more highly regarded. And the margin is not small, but rather reflects the overwhelming consensus of America’s reading community.

    REPLY: “Only when we get sufficiently rich can we afford the relative luxury of caring about the environment.” ― Bjørn Lomborg

    You demonstrate this perfectly here, without your cushy job and ample free time, you would NOT be here to harangue us all with your “wisdom”. You’d be working hard just trying to survive. As for the “consensus of America’s reading community” your opinion on this is just that. With no citations nor surveys to support it, you have no claim. But Merry Christmas anyways, now take a timeout until Tuesday, because nobody will be around to approve your posts.

    BTW it isn’t a good idea to put your email address into the author name field of comments, so I’ve removed it for you and put your regular name there. – Anthony

  329. Thank you for the correction, Anthony.

    Anthony says: As for the “consensus of America’s reading community” your opinion on this is just that. With no citations nor surveys to support it, you have no claim.

    Anthony, the numbers you seek are readily obtained from Amazon.com.

    Consulting the Amazon sales rank for Bjorn Lomborg’s best-selling Skeptical Environmentalist (sales rank #26,636), we find that even Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems outsells Lomborg (sales rank #22,904). As for novels and essay collections, it appears that Berry has at least a dozen titles that each that presently outsell Lomborg (Berry’s essays The Unsettling of America at #7,041, Berry’s novel Hanna Coulter at #19,790).

    Hopefully these concrete sales rank numbers will convey to WUWT folks some of the very real respect and affection that Americans have developed for Wendell Berry’s sustainment-oriented philosophy and personal way of life.

    Wendell Berry is a thinker who makes no one comfortable, and yet (to judge by his reader reviews and sales figures) Berry’s writings are bringing hope and inspiration to very many folks. Here’s a quote that many WUWT folks can applaud:

    “I wish to testify that in my best moments I am not aware of the existence of the government. Though I respect and feel myself dignified by the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution, I do not remember a day when the thought of the government made me happy, and I never think of it without the wish that it might become wiser and truer and smaller than it is.”

    So more power to Wendell Berry, and Merry Christmas to all at WUWT!

  330. The only true solution to sustainability is technological advancement. One could argue that the dinosaurs led the perfect Green definition of a sustainable lifestyle. How well did that work out for them? The key to technological development is the availability of cheap, reliable and abundant energy., which is exactly opposite to what the Greenies, most democrats and Obama want. Also, as a species we should be advancing technology as fast as possible justified by using one of the warmist’s favorite rationales, “The precautionary principle”, since the next great extinction event could be just around the corner. Fusion energy powers the universe, once we acquire that technology and make it reliable, abundant and inexpensive we will be well on our way to making it possible to start colonizing other planets and eventually other solar systems or living in enormous space ships.

    We should not worry about using up all the coal and oil. Forget about CO2 sequestration, that is inane and just drives up the cost of energy. The new EPA mercury regulations are stupid as well. I have not heard of anyone dying in recent times of air born mercury poisoning in the US. The EPA’s only goal is to drive up the cost of energy by shutting down coal powered energy facilities as illustrated by the EPA wanting to install mercury filled light-bulbs in every house and building across the country but yet supposedly worrying about the 1ppb that might be coming out of a power plants smoke stack.

    What we should worry about instead of using up the coal and oil, is not expending the resources required to develop the technology needed to replace it as an energy source ( a few hundred years perhaps) before it runs out. If we run out before that happens what is the worst outcome? We will be right where the greenies want us in the first place, relying on wind and solar just like our ancestors did or we will have to accept the utilization of fission energy.

    I will finish my comments by saying as I started, the key to human sustainability is technological advancement, and the faster we advance technologies, the longer our virgin resources last and the easier it is for us to recycle them. Cheap and abundant energy is the key to technological development as the evidence clearly demonstrates.

  331. A fake physicist;
    Consulting the Amazon sales rank for Bjorn Lomborg’s best-selling Skeptical Environmentalist (sales rank #26,636), we find that even Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems outsells Lomborg (sales rank #22,904). >>>

    If that’s your measure of credibility, then Mad Magazine, Arhie Comics and Marvel all trump them both. How does Einstein’s theory of relativity rank? What? Really really low? That means it is wrong?

  332. Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems? I wouldn’t give up even one of my vintage Marvel comics for that. He ain’t no Will Rogers.

    Can I just add my disgust about Gates’ sentiments about ‘quality over quantity’ of human life. This is the Sustainability agenda writ large and unapolegetic. Humans are a plague on the planet, Six out of seven of us shouldn’t be here. Since the people who can afford to feed themselves are the (mostly white) rich, guess who is in line for culling?

    Advocating genocide (in practice) doesn’t seem to bother these people at all. Revolting. Yet, they claim that they are caring and the rest of us are ruthless capitalist destroyers.

    Cognitive dissonance knows no bounds.

  333. To A Physicist-

    The problem of sustainability as administered by EPA and the NGOs is that it will be directed by the myth and sorcery. I have very little faith on anything sustainable being achieved by magical thinking. Lets use your soil loss concern as an example. EPA is considering a 45% reduction in nitrogen loading to the Mississippi River to save the Gulf of Mexico from Hypoxia and is further concerned by the dust and soil loss. The reality is the Nitrogen and sediment levels are unchanged or lower than they were 150 years ago.
    Nitrogen levels were so high in “natural” prairie soils that the first domestic cattle regularly died from nitrogen poisoning. Wheat could not be grown until the 1920s because soil nitrogen levels were too high and one could literally tap potassium nitrate crystals out of a corn stalk in the late 19th century- a reason why farmer’s slept with one eye open as a single spark could cause thousands of acres to go up like a fuse. (A study by Mayo in 1895 found that corn stalks consisted of 18.8% potassium nitrate by dry weight.)
    So lets look at what the prairies were like pre-contact. Some 100 to 150 million acres burned every year producing alkaline ash and driving massive amounts of particulates and reactive nitrogen into the atmosphere. (Those hazy days of Indian summer were smoke making the air quality better today than at any time prior to Europeans–(put that into your interstate transport rule pipe EPA and smoke it. If a 100,000 acre fire in MN caused Chicago to violate air standards 600 away what do you think the air was like when hundreds of millions of acres burned?). This alkaline ash was stomped into the earth and straw along with the dung from 50-60 million buffalo and 20 to 100 million antelope. The soil waterlogging conditions of the day were totally different causing the anoxic moist conditions fostering the explosion of nitrogen fixation which prefers an O2 deficient environment. (Tile draining of poor soil is the real agriculture problem- but that doesn’t fit the narrative) Consider 5 to 20% straw in waterlogged soils can produce 500 to 1000kgN/ha/yr. Remember that figure the next time someone talks about how much fertilizer we are adding. The repeated burning provided the needed alkalinity, destroyed the allopathic substances that typically inhibit N fixation and enhanced the bio-availability of P. Massive amounts of carbon and nitrogen as a result were captured by the soil and the reason it is often described as coal black. Some of these native prairie black clay loams have 16,000kgN/ha in the first 40in of soil. (See my earlier comment that the ecosystem operated in an entirely different stable state 150 years)
    The earth was also being dug up by hundreds of millions of prairie dogs. The eastern mound ant was moving upwards of 14000kg of soil/ha/yr. And along with these terraformers was the Rocky Mountain locust whose last major swarm in the 1870s covered some 200,000 sq. mi and over 12 trillion bugs. (You can thank the farms for wiping this plague from us) Soil loss as a result was massive.Total suspended solids of the Mississippi at New Orleans were measured by the Am Geol Soc at over 800mg/l during the 1840s! And along with this soil were massive amounts of nitrogen making the waters hypertrophic. Amazingly, Barry Commoner used a Mississippi tributary (The Illinois) in 1970 to rail against the sediment and nitrogen pollution of modern man- despite the fact that both sediment and nitrogen were at record lows at the time he wrote his paper. (EPA lies to the public claiming we are losing wetlands to rising sea level related to climate change when the reality is we are losing them to a declining sediment load. How are we ever to fix problems when we misrepresent the cause?)

    Environmental Science started with the myths fostered by Barry Commoner and Rachel Carlsen and we have never recovered. I no longer have any idea what world environmentalists are describing- because it seems we make it up as we go along to justify regulatory policy. EPA is directing the collapse of our energy economy and destroying untold wealth in the process – all justified by myth and misrepresentation while caring nothing about the very real problems of habitat loss and other solvable management issues. Sustainability is nothing more than the enforcement of the newest myth. The greatest threat to a better environment is the EPA and its NGO attack dogs in environmental movement.

    Oh and the prairie- a totally human fire manipulated environment- now reverting back to forest because EPA makes the burning necessary for its survival nearly impossible. But lets not talk about that either because the myth is so much more appealing.

  334. philincalifornia says:
    December 24, 2011 at 11:14 am
    So R. Gates, you don’t want to admit you’re a trained scientist with zero peer-reviewed publications or what ?
    ——-
    Yes, I don’t want to admit that since it is not true. I am not a trained scientist and hence, i have zero peer-reviewed literature.

  335. Philincalifornia, the October 2011 Physics Today has a very thorough article, titled Science Controversies Past and Present, that discusses at-length many of the issues that skeptics are raising here on WUWT.

    The Physics Today thesis and conclusion both are simple:

    Thesis: Reactions to the science of global warming have followed a similar course to those of other inconvenient truths from physics.

    Conclusion: History tells us that in the end, science will probably come out fine. Whether the planet will is another matter.

    WUWT discussions relating to sustainability are in essence debates regarding “whether the planet will come out fine”, given that science has demonstrated a substantial risk that our planet will not “come out fine.”

  336. A Physicist:
    Here is some environmental math you may appreciate. The brown pelican was used as the poster animal for DDT. Here is the status report prepared by USFWS for Texas (10/13/70):
    “It is estimated that pelican numbers declined by more than 80% in just 16 years, between 1919 and 1934. Even more damaging, however was the widespread use of DDT and similar insecticides beginning in the late 1940s”
    So the populations declined by 80% in the 16 years before DDT however the following years “were even more damaging.” Can you say corrupted?

  337. A Physicist- The discussions here are not about whether or not the planet will “come out fine” despite science having “demonstrated substantial risk.” The discussions are about the utter lack of science in climate science and anything else that touches the rotting corpse of environmentalism.
    Its interesting you posted songs- because you do seem to be singing from the enviro hymnal.

  338. A physicist,
    And no comment that nitrogen and sediment losses are lower now than pre-Contact period. Or that the air is also better.
    So no comment from you on the government math on DDT and pelican which found the birds declined from 5000 in 1918 to less than 200 in 1941 some 3 years before the first application of DDT- yet DDT was blamed for the birds decline?
    You are talking to someone who played in the grey DDT fog trailed behind the mosquito control trucks most summer nights of his childhood.
    And the paper you link is nothing more than the typical “more research needed.” How about one of my favorites:
    •“Men who voluntarily ingested 35 mgs of DDT daily for nearly 2 years were carefully examined for 20 years and developed no adverse effects.” Hayes, W. 1956. JAMA 1994;162:890-897
    Or these:
    •” None of 35 workers heavily exposed to DDT (600 times the average U.S. exposure for 9 to19 years) developed cancer.”[Laws, ER. 1967. Arch Env Health 15:766-775]
    • Primates fed 33,000 times the MDL was “inconclusive with respect to cancer” J. Cancer Res ClinOncol1999;125(3-4):219-25
    “Our data do not support the hypothesis that exposure to DDT and PCBs increases the risk of breast cancer.” N EnglJ Med1997;337:1253-8

    Tell the families of the children that died of malaria that they were saved from theoretical neurological disorders caused by DDT- I’m sure they will feel better.
    What day is sustainability celebrated?

  339. Pat Moffitt,

    ‘a physicist’ posted an obscure paper that says: These results highlight the impact of EDC on the developing nervous system and the need for more research in this area.

    ‘The need for more research’ = ‘Send us more grant money’. [And it should be noted that ±80% of all peer reviewed papers are eventually falsified.]

    DDT is generally harmless [except to insects, particularly mosquitoes and bedbugs]. As you pointed out, DDT is extremely beneficial to African kids, who might otherwise contract malaria, with its very high mortality. And it’s interesting that DDT still has an adverse effect on mosquitoes despite their being exposed to it for close to a century. It appears that mosquitoes cannot build up an effective resistance to DDT.

    There is nothing comparable to DDT regarding its harmless effect on the biosphere, outside of insect life. And as with demonizing CO2, the alarmist crowd is once again demonizing a compound that has been shown to be harmless and beneficial.

  340. R. Gates;
    Yes, I don’t want to admit that since it is not true. I am not a trained scientist and hence, i have zero peer-reviewed literature.>>>

    Me too. Oddly, when we disagree on science though, you keep coming out wrong. Lack of formal training is no excuse for pontificating ad naseum on science you know nothing about and have demonstrated repeatedly that you know nothing about. Consider this thread alone, where in multiple examples you’ve been backed into corners by various commenters on your statements and have responded with either silence or an attempt to change the subject.

    There was a time when I was of the belief that you were some sort of paid shill. I couldn’t think of another reason for you to come back again and again with still more nonsense and take a public drubbing for it. But having read your comment above advocating the elimination of 6 BILLION people in the grossly mistaken view that this would save the 0.01% of the population that dies of starvation per year, I now know what the real problem is.

    You have a world view that would be shattered by confronting the folly of your belief system. So, rather than answer the arguments, or admit you are wrong, you simply avoid them.

    I suggest you back off sir. Of all the comments you have made in this forum, the suggestion that 6 BILLION people ought to lose their lives to save 0.01% of the population from something that has NOTHING to with food supply levels is a whole new order of sick and disgusting, and a comment that will follow you from one thread to another until you admit you are wrong and apologize for making such a disgusting suggestion.

  341. Pat, it’s telling that precisely zero of the articles you cite were looking for neurological or reproductive effects. Which makes zero sense, because after all, neither Rachel Carson nor anyone else argued that persistent pesticides caused cancer in wildlife, eh?

    Your soil conservation citations are similarly cherry-picked and similarly miss-the-main point. In fact, it’s mighty hard (for me) to figure out *what* your main point is.

    Most folks appreciate, upon a foundation that combines common sense with solid science, that productive soils are good and ought to be sustainably conserved, while the use of persistent toxic chemicals that spread everywhere is a bad idea and ought to be restricted.

  342. Gates, words fail me. We grow so much more food per gallon of gas compared to a century ago it would seem almost encredulous. Wanna go back to the old ways? No can do. There is not enough energy to sustaine that kind of food production. I apologise for typing issues as I am using my phone for this. But your ignorance HAD to be addressed.

  343. Horse drawn equipment puts tons more CO2 in the air than a fuel efficient tractor would. And the big ones make one pass to do the entire field, from the plow to the seeds in the ground. The addition of herbacides continues to save fuel as crop yeild is so much better than it used to be. If we ended that practice, we would have to use more fuel to plant more fields to make up for it. People with concrete under their feet should NOT comment on how to feed people. It just makes them look foolish.

  344. Time and time again, the way to slow down population growth has been proven. Educate all females and provide good healthcare. Gates why are u not beating that drum?

  345. R. Gates says:
    December 25, 2011 at 3:57 am
    philincalifornia says:
    December 24, 2011 at 11:14 am
    So R. Gates, you don’t want to admit you’re a trained scientist with zero peer-reviewed publications or what ?
    ——-
    Yes, I don’t want to admit that since it is not true. I am not a trained scientist and hence, i have zero peer-reviewed literature.
    ======================================

    OK, I concede. I think you phrased it as “I have had scientific training” on the thread where you said it.

    A purported physicist – I have no idea what point of mine you were addressing with your appeal to the authority of someone else’s silly analogy. Comparison of the climate fraudsters with Galileo ?? Give me a break. Can you not think for yourself and see that the history of the development of each field puts the religion that is CAGW belief in the position of the Catholic Church, not vice versa.

    My prediction for 2012. Kevin Trenberth to lobby all journal editors saying it’s a travesty that Conclusion sections come after Results and Discussion sections and would they please change their practices as climate science is too important blah blah blah, for the children blah blah blah.

    Why don’t you show us some of that “overwhelming evidence” a physicist, instead of posting links to such drivel.

  346. History tells us that in the end, the planet will probably come out fine. Whether science will is another matter.

  347. Smoky,
    A small but important point- some mosquitos are resistant to being killed by DDT but importantly none have overcome an aversion to DDT’s presence- its an awesome repellent. DDT is perfect for spraying onto bed nets or inside rural homes because the blood suckers are reluctant to enter or even alight. Its persistence is also an advantage to the habitants of remote areas that are not served by a Public health infrastructure that can replace the repellents ever few months

  348. A Physicist-
    If you think that an organic farm has no toxics you know very little about allelopathy. Just not worth it discussing this you- you have done no work in this field have you? I’m all for conservation what scares me is clueless people making decisions about subjects they don’t understand with the potential for consequences they cannot conceive.

  349. Computers as bad as SUV’s?

    “Most people don’t appreciate that the computer on your desk is contributing to global warming and that if its electricity comes from a coal power plant it produces as much CO2 as a sports utility vehicle,” said Bill St. Arnaud of Canarie, a Canada-based internet development organization.

    “Some studies estimate the internet will be producing 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases in a decade. That is clearly the wrong direction. That is clearly unsustainable,” added St. Arnaud.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/07/10/green.internet.CO2/

  350. When I was a little girl we had to watch out for ecoli in the well. Had to do with all that manure we spread. It got in the well water. When nonorganic fertilizer became available our well passed inspection every time.

  351. “A physicist says:
    December 25, 2011 at 5:33 am
    Thesis: Reactions to the science of global warming have followed a similar course to those of other inconvenient truths from physics.”

    The author missed the point. Einstein said it matter not how many scientists believe him wrong, it only took one to show Relativity was wrong. Relativity has never yet failed in any prediction it has made.

    Climate Science made a prediction, that temperatures would continue to increase, and this increase would accelerate post 2000. This prediction was highly publicized by the IPCC as justification to regulate global CO2.

    That prediction has been shown to be a failure. Argo has shown that there is no energy accumulating in the earth’s climate system. Thus, by the criteria accepted in all other sciences outside of Climate Science, AGW is a failed theory.

  352. To set the record straight here on this beautiful Christmas Day– despite the contentions of some, never once have I advocated for the elimination of 6 Billion people, or 3 Billion, or even 1 person. But in terms of the topic of this thread– sustainability, and the notion that nothing is sustainable, here is the summary of my perspective:

    1) Ulimately nothing is sustainable as the law of entropy will eventually reduce our presently inhabited universe to a cold place where there is no useful energy left, reaching a state of maximum entropy.
    2) We must expend energy to hold off entropy in a localized way, but that use of energy always increases the net entropy in the universe. When we reduce entropy locally, we increase it somewhere else.
    3) The massive rise human civilization over the past century has been made possible by one primary thing– the use of fossil fuels. To the extent these are limited, is the extent to which our current mode of expanding and caring for the present 7+ billion humans is in jeapardy, and thus, we will need to find alternative energy sources. Humans are very smart and very adaptable, so I have high hopes we will be able to do this.
    4) My own personal value system is such that I don’t measure the “success” of a life, or of a species by how many there are of us, or even how long we live, but rather how we live. When you come to the end of your life, and people reflect back upon you, it won’t be how much money you had or even how long you lived, but how you lived along the journey of your life. Even more to the point, (and a point quite on the mark for this Christmas Day), you will only be remembered for the actions you took for others. Many 20 year olds who die young are remembered far more fondly then 70 year olds after they die because of the impact the 20 year old made on others in their lives. That impact had nothing to do with money or fame or riches, but simply the impact on others. So, as a species, looking at the impact we make upon this planet, my own personal belief system is such that just because there are 7 Billion of us doesn’t in itself mean something virtuous, but rather it is how, we as a species live upon this earth and what we will leave for the others to follow in our footsteps.

    Merry Christmas, and remember, if you lie about what people say, Santa will put a lump of coal in your stocking next year!

  353. ahh…the Progressive Utopia, I wonder sometimes why people just don’t get it!

    “THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS”
    1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
    2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
    3. No animal shall wear clothes.
    4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
    5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
    6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
    7. All animals are equal.”
    – George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 2

    Good Neighbor Policy

    Following respectful and good-faith dialogue with members of the local community which has been rebuilding since the trauma of 9/11, Occupy Wall Street hereby announces the following Good Neighbor Policy:

    OWS has zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol anywhere in Liberty Plaza;

    Zero tolerance for violence or verbal abuse towards anyone;

    Zero tolerance for abuse of personal or public property.

    OWS will limit drumming on the site to 2 hours per day, between the hours of 11am and 5pm only.

    OWS encourages all participants to respect health and sanitary regulations, and will direct all participants to respectfully utilize appropriate off-site sanitary facilities.

    OWS will display signage and have community relations and security monitors in Liberty Plaza, in order to ensure awareness of and respect for our guidelines and Good Neighbor Policy.

    OWS will at all times have a community relations representative on-site, to monitor and respond to community concerns and complaints.

    October 13, 2011
    Occupy Wall Street

    http://www.nycga.net/resources/good-neighbor-policy/

  354. Would it be possible to build a windmill from scratch using only the energy produced by another similar windmill?

  355. R. Gates;
    To set the record straight here on this beautiful Christmas Day– despite the contentions of some, never once have I advocated for the elimination of 6 Billion people, or 3 Billion, or even 1 person.>>>>

    Really? Allow me to quote:

    R. Gates;
    Six million children die of hunger every year. If you want to measure human success by quantity, why not use this one? Your own values will dictate what you want to call success. Personally, I favor quality over quantity. How we live is far more important to me than how many of us do or how long we do. If there were only 1 billion humans on earth but none went hungry– that to me would be success.>>>

    You have a sick and twisted definition of success. You have a sick and twisted measure of quality of life. You have a sick and twisted aversion to addressing the real cause of starvation which is corruption and tyranny. If there were only 1 billion people on earth it would do exactly nothing to help those who have the misfortune to be born in countries ruled by corruption and tyranny. That you see a population of 1 billion instead of 7 billion as the solution says much about your twisted sense of reality and complete lack of morality. You said what you said, and all the re-positioning now doesn’t change that. You stepped in it big time, and don’t have the guts to say you were wrong.

  356. Excellent post Willis. “Sustainable development” is an Orwellian Newspeak myth propagated by dim-witted “intelligentsia”, instigated by Statists.

    Under a plethora of various Statist Newspeak myths such as: “economic justice”, “social justice”, Gloooooobal Waaaaarming”, “redistribution of wealth”, “We are the 99%”, “fiat currency”, etc., the state slowly steals our individual rights and wealth and replaces them with a hell-on-earth totalitarian state.

    True evil lies behind these warm & fuzzy sounding oxymoronic Newspeak phrases, and the powers that be simply manipulate mob mentality to achieve a “consensus”, and that contrived consensus ultimately leads to totalitarianism.

    History shows (Stalin, Kim, Hitler, Mao, Ahmajinedad, Pol Pot, etc.) that individuals failing to agree with the mob’s new “consensus”, usually end up kneeling next to a bag of lime in some cornfield or rice field with a gun to the head….

    The answer is simple. Just to let free-market economies determine efficient allocations of land, labor and capital and allow small central governments to set economically feasible pollution standards based on hard science, not scientific “consensus” or ulterior agendas.

  357. @R. Gates says:

    And it’s nice to know that you “walk the walk” when it comes to personally protecting and sustaining yourself [and the and my environment in a reasonable way], (though you probably meant “walk the talk”), though of course you know you’d be nothing without the millions of other people who indirectly or directly support your existence on the earth in this hugely interconnected collective civilization we have now.

    “If you talk the talk, you better be able to walk the [implied] walk.” Talking about something is one thing, but “walking the walk” or doing it is another, right?

    But it’s not a mystery any longer why you don’t understand what words mean, because you’ve admitted that in your case your usage is totally arbitrary [as an arbitrary construct of your own human mind] and, therefore, you must think it’s the same with everyone else.

    This dispenses with any need or possibility to even talk about about whatever the idea or words that, “you know you’d be nothing without the millions of other people who indirectly or directly support your existence on the earth in this hugely interconnected collective civilization we have now,” mean. But let’s assume the words mean something which the rest of us who do think we can talk meaningfully about “reality” might be able to decipher.

    I’d say it sounds like some of Elizabeth Warren’s reasoning, to wit , that because hardly anyone in the U.S. can exist without contacting another human directly or indirectly, and so on and on, that my fortune has been determined by everyone else in the United States, and likewise for them. But in which case, that’s the end of the discussion, because, numerically speaking, essentially no one has been in control of anyone else – each person’s contribution has been 1 in about 300 million. So why all of a sudden jump up and arbitrarily punish or reward anyone to make them “equal”, and how would you enforce that equality? Because it should and would be immediately unstable just as it was before: If you build a $5000 garage and I party away $5000, do you owe me $5000 to get us back to being equal?

    No, according to one of Elizabeth Warren’s principles, it simply “is what it is”, and we’re back to square one where you still have no argument as to why you and your fellow admitted “nothings without being connected” connectivist dependents should be telling anyone or everyone what to do, instead of me, “the 1%”, the VFW, the Sierra Club, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or anyone else.

    But fortunately we do have a socio-economic system based upon Constitutional Capitalism which has achieved the highest standard of living for the most people ever in the history of the United States! Even the poorest person is vastly richer now than, say, George Washington was in many critical areas and significant ways, right? And among the highest rates of various stats relating to health and well-being compared to other countries, nearly none of which the U.S. “robbed”. I don’t get richer just because a poor person is born in a country with an inferior socio-economic system.

    While Totalitarian Countries are way down on the well-being scale. As are the vast majority of countries living in what might be called a more “natural” web of connectivity or even in a pretty “equally” “sustainable” way, the more “natural” they get.

    So, Gates, I’d suggest that if you suddenly find the ability to understand words and numbers as having “objective, logical, factual, real, and scientific meanings”, for example, you should read the Constitution, etc., and take a good look at how a very successful system based upon rugged individualism, instead of on dainty collectivism, actually does walk the walk.

    Btw, rugged individualists are, almost by definition, never “nothing”.

  358. JPeden says:
    December 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    “”Btw, rugged individualists are, almost by definition, never “nothing”.””

    Exactly. We do things for ourselves. We don’t rely on the “state” which simply redistributes
    wealth from those who can to those who can’t thereby creating a huge cadre of whinging parasites
    unable to support themselves. Eventually they will become aware of the failing systems
    and go on the rampage demanding their “rights”.
    Meanwhile we prepare for the worst, which won’t be a climate problem but a total break
    down of society when the energy crisis hits.

  359. I don’t think Gates is trying to say 6 billion people shouldnot be here. I do think he is terribly naive about humans and how hard life is without a cheap energy source. Most folks like him may not have a history passed down from their grandparents to attest to this hard life eekes out without abundant wneegy. That 1 billion people he thinks of so fondly would not be singing his praises.

  360. Stephen Harris says:
    December 23, 2011 at 6:29 am
    Edo Japan is a good example of what sustainable development really means. It should be studied to see what lessons we can learn and apply in our time.

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

    Yes, it should be studied, but studied rationally. I take it you mean the romanticised version being presented by the eugenicists of today, as here:

    http://www.japanfs.org/en/aboutus/who/

    After the Kyoto Conference on climate change in 1997, activities to address global environmental problems gained momentum in Japan and expanded across many sectors. Today one can see many initiatives by the central and local governments, industry, research institutes, universities, non-governmental organizations and individual citizens.

    There may also be lessons from the past before the modern day Japan had a tradition of sustainability.The Edo Period, lasting about 300 years, from the early 17th to late 19th century, appears from today’s perspective to have been one model of a sustainable society. During that period Japan was self-sufficient in food and energy, had low population growth and recycled almost all materials. One may find clues for a new type of sustainability in the wisdom, craftsmanship and lifestyles of the past.

    And doesn’t it sound just marvellous? As if they’d found the answer to “sustainability” which each country should follow? Just read how they present it in a couple of essays: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5140

    Just how did this differ from, say, England? When wood is your main source of fuel trees were pollarded, clothes were darned until they fell to pieces, night soil from London was moved to the surrounding countryside for fertiliser.., and so on.

    To make such a “virtue” out of lack for the majority of the population by ignoring that what it really shows is man’s ingenuity in survival techniques, is unconscionable.

    “Japan in the Edo Period could serve as one model of a sustainable society. The basis of its sustained economy and cultural development was not mass production and mass consumption for convenience, as we see in modern society, but rather the full utilization of limited resources. http://www.japanfs.org/en_/newsletter/200303-1.html

    The following is the reality of a majority forced peasant society taxed into misery while their food went to the elite always well fed eugenicists of the Edo period who continued to be well fed and catered for with the luxuries of the time while the oiks providing it starved on masse.

    “A struggle arose in the face of political limitations that the shogun imposed on the entrepreneurial class. The government ideal of an agrarian society failed to square with the reality of commercial distribution. A huge government bureaucracy had evolved, which now stagnated because of its discrepancy with a new and evolving social order. Compounding the situation, the population increased significantly during the first half of the Tokugawa period. Although the magnitude and growth rates are uncertain, there were at least 26 million commoners and about four million members of samurai families and their attendants when the first nationwide census was taken in 1721. Drought, followed by crop shortages and starvation, resulted in twenty great famines between 1675 and 1837. During the Tokugawa period, there were 154 famines, of which 21 were widespread and serious.[9] Peasant unrest grew, and by the late eighteenth century, mass protests over taxes and food shortages had become commonplace.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period

    Read these again: “Japan in the Edo Period could serve as one model of a sustainable society. The basis of its sustained economy and cultural development was not mass production and mass consumption for convenience, as we see in modern society, but rather the full utilization of limited resources.” & “During that period Japan was self-sufficient in food and energy, had low population growth and recycled almost all materials.”

    – and compare with the reality where low population growth was from mass starvation..

    – whenever you read such a phrase “limited resources”: the limitation is imposed by the elite who are under no such constraints. “Limited resources” is only for the oik masses whose only use to the elite is to provide the elite with unlimited resources.

    Something seasonal to think about from the same wiki page above:

    “New laws were developed, and new administrative devices were instituted. A new theory of government and a new vision of society emerged as a means of justifying more comprehensive governance by the bakufu. Each person had a distinct place in society and was expected to work to fulfill his or her mission in life. The people were to be ruled with benevolence by those whose assigned duty it was to rule. Government was all-powerful but responsible and humane.”

    Benevolently and Humanely letting millions starve in famine after famine.. But that’s not my point here, although I hope this will make the disjunct between propaganda pieces by the eugenicists and actually reality clearer, my point is that whether religious or atheists, Jesus pointed out the fallacy of the elite masquerading as benevolent rulers:

    [Caveat for the American theologians here – my use of the King James doesn’t mean anything more than that is the only Bible version available when I was being taught this in RK at school, yes I’m that old, it’s what I’m used to.]

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+20:24-26&version=KJV

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+10:41-43&version=KJV

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+22:24-26&version=KJV

    From Luke: 25And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.

    26But ye shall not be so:

    Masquerading as benevolent this is tyranny over the masses. Don’t be conned either by the word “anarchists” given bad rap by the tyrannical benevolent benefactors who say it is against democracy, tyranny through democratic ballot is well tested.., variations on the Gentile system, ‘the teachings of men’. What Jesus is saying here is that there are none in his teaching who can claim to be such, that each is equal with no other able to claim authority over another, an-archia, without another’s head over you. This is Common Law, natural law applicable to all and of Britain and the Constitution of the US.

    http://www.britsattheirbest.com/freedom/f_british_constitution.htm

    You don’t have to believe in God to see the logic here, but, for any calling themselves Christian and seeking to create a society of such tyrannical benefactors, now masquerading as caring for the environment while reducing others to abject misery through taxes and limitions on their freedoms, you cannot call yourselves Christian. Because:

    This is the heart and mind of all of Jesus’s teaching, the foundation stone to building any society in real freedom and dignity for each and every one. (As Christian to Christian of course, you would have to sort out problems on a person to person basis, before taking recourse in the law courts, a step further.)

    1) COMMON LAW

    Established by Alfred the Great (AD 871- 899) Common Law has been developed by the British people for more than a thousand years. It is common because it applies to everyone equally.

    Common Law is grounded in the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule – treat others as you would be treated. Common Law was developed by British people so they could settle their differences peacefully and fairly.

    “The whole structure of our present jurisprudence stands upon the original foundations of the common law.”
    US Justice Joseph Story

  361. Once again I apologize for my tying skills on the phone. Editing is a bitch so u may have to guess at some of my comments.

  362. At first, you find it easy to describe. It would not take you a long time to understand it. At last you reach to the spiritually meaning of the GOD.
    Here is a big “IF”.
    IF we look to the “ETERNITY”, the “time scale” is ETERNAL, then everything is sustainable.
    To be-and-not to be is cyclic term to the eternity,
    and this is sustainability;
    If we say only “not to be”(nothing), then we have left the part of “to be”, and even in this case,
    “NOTHING” itself is sustainable;
    “NOTHING” means “it doesn’t exist”,
    and this is sustainability.

    • @ acckkii…

      IF God says “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, THEN all things must be RELATIVE, when it come to sustainability right?

      …at least that’s what I think…I think; but it hasn’t been peer reviewed…and I know I don’t actually no much…

      Andrew

  363. SUN_SEA_LAND this combination, are making together WIND. Today I as was driving from a place near a sea back to home. There was a powerful wind blowing from the sea to the land. I was thinking about “NOTHING IS SUSTAINABLE”.
    I know this place from long time ago maybe for 55 years. The place is well known because of its non stop WINDS. I was looking at the windmills…
    As long as the SUN-SEA_LAND are there, “WIND” would blow and it is sustainable.
    I stopped the car and got out of it for a while, I could not stay there, the wind was pretty powerful, wow! What a wonderful eternal resource.
    (W.) is right, it is free energy….

  364. ‘(W.) is right, it is free energy….’!!!
    Apart, that is, from the costs of construction, land, maintenance, depreciation, transmission, externalities like bird kill, …..
    There was a severe thunderstorm in Melbourne here in Australia on Christmas Day, with hailstones the size of lemons. Among the photographs of damage: many of those taxpayer subsidised solar panels. They, too, provide ‘free’ energy – apart from capital, fitting, cleaning, replacement (or insurance), inverters, …
    You might as well look at a pile of coal or a drum of yellowcake and say ‘free energy!’

  365. Andrew,
    1st: start with NOTHING, and say “NOTHING” is sustainable, is this “NOTHING” really sustainable? your reply is supposed to be “VERY YES”;
    2nd: when there is something ( the meaning of “to be”), the next must be “not to be” not nothing, and the next again “to be” and …;
    3rd: “to be” and “not to be” (birth -die) are a cyclic term in the whole planet. This is sustainability, Andrew and Acckii are nothing, they are included in “CYCLES”;
    Now NOTHING (to be+ not to be) is sustainable.
    Same as RISE and FALL, this does not mean nothing is sustainable.
    And about GOD,
    I am not religious, the sound of NOTHING IS SUSTAINABLE, reminded me to the point. That’s it.

  366. Acckkii is not sustainable when he is alive, but when he dies (acckkii alive+acckkii dead) would be sustainable, what do you want from nothing that is sustainable? The aftermath! ACCKKIIs are sustainable.
    This coming and going never stops no matter who/what they are, I am sure you don’t know too when this cycle may stop, we don’t know how many no-wheres there may be.

  367. ACCKKI says:

    “…we don’t know how many no-wheres there may be.”

    By definition, there are none anywhere.

  368. Can we get back to we are born, we get to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, have some sex, and then die? Hey! Isn’t it beer:30 somewhere?

  369. Aynsley Kellow,
    You cannot imagine how clean and nice is the place with that FREE!!! really FREE!!! energy that I told you here. But there are many places around the earth in Africa and Saudi Arabia you can never stay for an hour. Keep Melbourne in your both hands tightly.
    Can you say if you have such place with that powerful all the time the wind what do you do with that? Your reply is that on Melbourne you had a problem for a day? !!

  370. Pamela Gray,
    if you like to solve it differentially, of course you can, don’t forget this is again dsustainable(dx). The equation is for GREEDY ones as well.

  371. Brian H,
    It is interesting thing. I can just guess that you agree with the issue of global cyclic terms. Day-Night, Seasons..,
    How should we expect that with the scale of the whole planet and time scale to the eternity, we can comply with “nothing is sustainable”, the trend is “sustainability”? Everything around us is cyclic. NOW,
    Do you understand this:
    “Pamela Gray says:
    December 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm
    Can we get back to we are born, we get to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, have some sex, and then die? Hey! Isn’t it beer:30 somewhere?”
    Here, what is HEY! for? Is this one a scientist? Oh, GOD!
    In Real Science you see COW BOYS, why here?

  372. ACCKKII says:
    December 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm
    Acckkii is not sustainable when he is alive, but when he dies (acckkii alive+acckkii dead) would be sustainable, what do you want from nothing that is sustainable? The aftermath! ACCKKIIs are sustainable.
    This coming and going never stops no matter who/what they are, I am sure you don’t know too when this cycle may stop, we don’t know how many no-wheres there may be.

    ——-

    Actually ACCKKII you’re pretty much sustainable all the time you’re alive. Your body is constantly renewing itself, I think it’s something like every seven years every cell in your body is new – it’s the general pattern that stays the same from birth to death so that’s renewable..

  373. ACCKKII says:
    December 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Aynsley Kellow,
    You cannot imagine how clean and nice is the place with that FREE!!! really FREE!!! energy that I told you here.
    Can you say if you have such place with that powerful all the time the wind what do you do with that? Your reply is that on Melbourne you had a problem for a day? !!

    Hey, ACCKKll, if the wind energy is free, why don’t you find your “free” place with enough wind yourself and then build your own “free” windmill and distribute “that FREE!!! really FREE!!! energy” to whomever you want to “free”? Wha…what’s that you said back, “because it would not be sustainable”?

  374. Hey! JPeden,(sorry but if you like!)
    1st of all….Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…
    Don’t worry, someone else has made the windmills earlier and he is lucky..
    Don’t be so sorry and aggressive. I don’t know what to call you, specialist scientist? what is your objection about, there is a wind, we have a fan, if I put the fan against this wind there would be a gain, what’s your problem? Should we burn oil and gas in a place that the energy is coming to us without pipeline without tankers without fuel station? Do you lose anything? Or generally speaking and objecting is going to be a rule for the friends like you.
    If you like to know, I’m not pro/anti CO2 individual, I think there is a river when I reach there I should make a bridge and pass the river. Japanese are having electricity from a small water fall where ever it is and light a short alley, what should be our problem with that?
    Objection on what?
    apology for that HEY!
    Merry Christmas and Happy new year, may GOD help us.

  375. Myrrh,
    It’s your turn my patient!,
    When you have problem with as simple as possible ACCKKII! how can I help you?
    Hope you know what is (dx) or dsustainable. I’m afraid I cannot help you.

  376. A poster calling themself “A physicist” said:

    WUWT discussions relating to sustainability are in essence debates regarding “whether the planet will come out fine”, given that science has demonstrated a substantial risk that our planet will not “come out fine.”

    What substantial risk to the planet has science demonstrated?

  377. ACCKKII says:
    December 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    I don’t know what to call you, specialist scientist? what is your objection about, there is a wind, we have a fan, if I put the fan against this wind there would be a gain, what’s your problem?

    My answer to you is why I asked you to try it yourself as your own personal experiment first to see how free it actually is, and also to see how efficient your allegedly simple schema or “idea” would actually be in terms of actually being workable on a large scale in providing usable energy to large populations of people. Europe has already done the same experiment on a very large scale, and it has failed on both counts – to be either free or efficient. Europe’s system was also massively corrupted by criminal operations digging into the “free” money handed out by Governments there. Wind power also has to be backed up by conventional sources for when the wind doesn’t blow and also partly because any excess electricity it generates cannot be effectively stored for later use.

    But I do agree with you completely when it comes to hydropower, which does have a long record of being a very successful source of electricity supply.

    And don’t worry about the “Hey”. It sounds like you are not just not totally up to speed yet in the ways in which “Hey” is used among people whose native language is English. Anyone can use it.

    “Merry Christmas and Happy new year, may GOD help us.” Back at you!, meaning, I’m saying the the same thing back to you!

    • JPeden,
      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I liked it very much.
      Windmills where about I said, have special situation. Generally, windmill plan is successful when the following conditions are met:
      1. Sustainable wind;
      2. No other choice for the power supply is available;
      That place is really unique. Sustainable wind through days of a year is unbelievably within your reach. I can give you an imagination of the place. The sea, then the land and the sun. The land around the place is not flat. Mountains all around. There is just one narrow low corridor that lets the wind gets exhausted. As it is not so wide, so there is a permanent wind blowing. You feel sustainable resource here, you cannot count on an oil/gas reservoir like this. As long as the 3 system there are, it works.
      In that area the cheapest energy for the olive farmers is this wind-fan system.
      And about comparison; when you have only one choice what would you do? Besides, is the living cost in Tokyo and London the same? In EU windmills didn’t work?The place that I saw it,windmills are working it is feasible. About the windmills there are stories…woooh, the birds,the…. about nuclear plants wooooh as much as you may wish, about Dams and hydro s ….HELP! …fishes….about Hydrocarbons…CO2, global warming…
      All these are essential just the road map to be adjusted not to be stopped. Fossil Based Fuels (FBF) among all resources of energy still is GIANT and sustainable. You cannot look at this resource as energy only. It is economically a phenomena. The only important thing about this material, is how can we extend its life time. Here is the technology that works.
      Efficient Consumption, long life FBF.
      And as long as this resource is economically efficient it works, unless the next resource(s) are available.
      Best Wishes.

  378. JPeden,
    Imagine my performance in this blog is a dogmatic pro CO2 person.
    It is unusual to keep my nose just behind one’s car exhaust.
    About 31 years ago I started my Caprice Classic engine at my parking. It was winter. My 5 years old son was waiting for me in the car. I was talking to my neighbor for some times. I called my son if he is ready to go, no reply, “CO” made him sick, there was a clinic nearby, they saved his life with pure oxygen. Irregularities in engines, fuel, traffic,…. Do we want grey air? Should we say Cancer is because of CO2 or other factors?
    When a huge number of humans are under RISK, should be inject CO2 in undergrounds? Somebody said CO and CO2 no smell …. Then what is that smell for?
    I think; CO2 okay/nokay/whatever, keep it away from us take it to where its ppm is safe (allowable).
    Allowable is not better than safe, it means we should have it, and no way out. In greater cities everything is above max allowable. It doesn’t mean CO2 is bad. Water is good, but our body can never bear the pressure of it in deep levels.

  379. Threadjack in progress.

    Back on topic, Aynsley Kellow’s linked article, above, contains the following: “We must reject nature as providing norms which guide how we must live and accept instead that we are part of a living, changing system; we can chose to accept, use, or control elements to make for a habitable existence, both singly and individually. ”

    All such “natural norms” are projections, justifications, or rationalizations of what we want to do anyway.

  380. It should be noted that just as Ehrlich felt cheap abundant energy would be a machine gun in the hands of an idiot child, the sustainabilists consider that the attainment of modern technological and industrial living standards by the Undeveloped South would doom the world.

    Both are damnfools.

  381. As the development of an indefinitely sustainable low-cost energy resource is key to the sustainability of our current lifestyle, here is a video presentation by Bill Gates introducing TerraPower, his new nuclear startup. He introduces a new concept, the Traveling Wave Breeder Reactor, which appears to be a novel method of running the same nuclear breeding cycle that President Nixon was pushing when his administration thought the doomed Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor was the sure path to a prolific nuclear future. In this talk, Gates seems to be emphasizing the assumed emergency requirement to reduce anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050, perhaps to overcome those objections that sunk the government funded LMFBR project after well over five billion dollars had been spent.

    Bill Gates on energy: Innovating to zero!
    Uploaded by TEDtalksDirector on Feb 20, 2010
    1,608 likes, 321 dislikes; 283,355 Views; 29:33 min
    ”At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world’s energy future, describing the need for “miracles” to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he’s backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.”

    A recent report announces a development in cooperation with China.

    Bill Gates and China Developing Nuclear Reactor
    Uploaded by crwenewswire on Dec 7, 2011
    0 likes, 0 dislikes; 161 Views; 1:09 min
    ”Welcome to CRWE Newswire News Update, I’m Christina Collins
    “— Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp. co-founder says he is in discussions with China to jointly develop a new kind of nuclear reactor — Wednesday . . .”

  382. Nothing is Sustainable

    Willis, I respectfully disagree, unless you add a qualifier thusly: “Nothing man does is sustainable”.

    The sustainability question was answered long ago by God, who was quoted by Moses, who was quoted by Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 4:4: blah blah …

    [Snipped heaps of religious rambling. You’ve been warned about preaching and praying and hanging your religious views out on the blogs. Oh, not by this site, but by the man himself, who said “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the web, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

    So … please take your religion someplace private. This is not the place for it.

    Thanks,

    w.]

  383. [Snipped heaps of …

    I take it you work or have worked for the United Nations, then? You advocate their taking the place of that which God has reserved to himself, taking care of and “sustaining” people?

    If the fairy tale of CAGW and the tenants of the UN are not about religion, what is they about?

  384. squareheaded says:
    December 31, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    [Snipped heaps of …

    I take it you work or have worked for the United Nations, then? You advocate their taking the place of that which God has reserved to himself, taking care of and “sustaining” people?

    If the fairy tale of CAGW and the tenants of the UN are not about religion, what is they about?

    As I mentioned above, your intrusion of God into a scientific discussion is unwarranted and unwanted. Whether or not God exists is immaterial to scientific questions. Again, I invite you to stop your pushiness and keep your !@#$%^ God to yourself. If you want to discuss science, I’m up for it. For religious issues, you’ll have to apply elsewhere.

    w.

  385. squareheaded says:
    December 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Sorry, I don’t have snip rights. I meant to say:

    If the fairy tale of CAGW and the tenants of the UN are not about religion, what are they about?

    How would I know? Ask them, not me. I’m neither a believer in the fairy tale, nor a supporter of many parts of the UN.

    Thanks,

    w.

  386. Forget about future generations, what about other forms of life right now? They are using the sun and wind. Every bit of sun and wind energy that humans use is taking it from the animals and plants that need it.

    Obviously, a solar panel on a roof (which already represents the “taking” of space by the building) isn’t adding to the problem. But a field effectively paved over with acres of solar panels and miles upon miles of giant wind turbines are clearly a problem.

  387. In a way, sustainable is both impossible and infinitely possible. Look at false teeth (it just popped into my head as an example–don’t ask!). It seems dentures were originally cobbled together from animal teeth and ivory. There’s a limit to materials supply and the results were sometimes not so good. Modern dentures are made from acrylic, fiberglass, metal, or a combination of these. The dentures themselves, as a product, are sustainable. The materials change, the product remains. In the future, dentistry may improve to the point where dentures are not needed. Most things in life are like that. If materials run out or if a better material comes along, we modify the product to match what is available or works better. Materials themselves may not be infinitely sustainable (though I think it would take a long time to run out of iron, etc.) but the products continue using different materials. Thus, both sustainable and not sustainable.

  388. @ Alice

    …you have just described free market capitalism beautifully.

    “(it just popped into my head as an example–don’t ask!)”…ok I won’t. But if stuff like that…just pops into your head…that’s pretty cool! Unless you just popped in your dentures…’cause if that’s why then I am laughing!

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