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Environment

Via Bloomberg. Click on the image below to see a “cool” but alarming animation.

Of course climate deniers would argue that this is natural and humans have nothing to do with it.  Unfortunately, 97% of scientists agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities” [source].

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Leave it to the old sage, Jeremy Grantham, to provide some interesting insights.  A few brief excerpts from GMO’s latest quarterly letter – available here.

 

“The main potential reward, especially in an economy that is having the slowest recovery ever recorded, is in job creation. Job creation turns out to be an incredibly complicated economic issue, depending on the unique circumstances of each project and how it interacts with competing projects. If there were armies of unemployed welders and other construction workers sitting around, one could easily imagine that almost every job needed would draw from the unemployment pool and would be true job creation. But what if there were intense competition for every welder, every oil worker, and most heavy construction workers? Then we would not be in the job creation business but in the job competition business, deciding which potential employer will bid up wages and which will go without workers. A recent Bloomberg article opened with the question, “How high is the demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?” It then answered, “So high that you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” citing a source from Huntsman Corp. “So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night” because the equipment is finally available then.”

***

“Considering the above, it is clear that the XL Pipeline will not “create” jobs. Every one of its potential workers, almost all of whom already travel widely for jobs, could get a job several times over if given an hour on the telephone. What is happening here is an allocation of limited manpower resources: will we use them to extend chemical plants to capitalize on the incredible U.S. advantage in cheap natural gas; will we extend our fracking of U.S. sweet crude; or will we transport Canadian diluted bitumen, the most dangerous and toxic of all fuels, in order to increase the price for a handful of Canadian Tar Sand producers who currently suffer from constrained delivery capabilities and hence lower local prices? Even ignoring the severe environmental risks, it should be an easy decision on economic grounds alone.”

 

Emphasis mine. 

This video is somewhat disturbing but that’s the point.

The cynic in me thinks that watching animals processed on an old-time traditional farm isn’t necessarily the most comforting thing to watch either – at least in that case you know where your food is coming from, how the animal is raised, and if it is treated humanely.  It makes me think that I should think more about where my food is coming from and how it is treated – after all you quite literally are what you eat.

This video does drive home industrialized society’s insatiable thirst for resources – in this case chicken, milk, and pork – and how easy it is for us to consume more than our fair (or even healthy) share.

If you find this interesting you should check out Food Inc. and In Defense of Food.

It’s been a while since I posted about one of my all time favorite people in this world, Jeremy Grantham.  There are two interesting articles from a sit down chat Leo Hickman had with Grantham. The topic was the environment, and Grantham’s efforts to help save it.  The first article is a summary version from The Guardian.  The second article is the full length interview from Business Insider.

As usual you’ll find my favorite excerpts below.  I especially like his balanced view that oil and gas aren’t entirely bad.  It’s a nuanced opinion but he has a point – for now they’re a necessary evil; try taking them away tomorrow and see what happens.

Part I: Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist: ‘We’re trying to buy time for the world to wake up’ (The Guardian)

Part II: GRANTHAM: Capitalism Is Great, But It Assigns No Value To Your Grandchildren (Business Insider)

Excerpts from Part I:

Many deep-greens – who claim the root cause for our environmental woes is the slavish quest for economic growth – will recoil at the thought of a hard-boiled capitalist such as Grantham underpinning so much of the environmental movement. He is unconcerned. “Capitalism does millions of things better than the alternatives. It balances supply and demand in an elegant way that central planning has never come close to. However, it is totally ill-equipped to deal with a small handful of issues. Unfortunately, they are the issues that are absolutely central to our long-term wellbeing and even survival.”

More awkwardly, he insists his substantial investments in oil and gas don’t contradict his green views. “We need oil. If we took oil away tomorrow, civilisation ends. We can burn all the cheap, high-quality oil and gas, but if we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or even third-derivative, energy-intensive oil and gas, with ‘fracking’ for shale gas on the boundary, then we’re cooked, we’re done for.”

***

But “China is my secret weapon,” he says enthusiastically. His eyes widen with excitement, and he talks quicker and quicker. “The Chinese cavalry riding to the rescue. I have very high hopes for China because they have embedded high scientific capabilities in their leadership class. They know this is serious. And they are acting much faster now than we are. They have it within their capabilities to come back in 30 years with the guarantee of complete energy independence – all alternative and sustainable for ever. They have an embarrassment of capital. We have an embarrassment of debt. So they can set a stunning pace, which they are doing. And they could crank it up. To hell with their five-year plans, they should move up to 25-year plans. They would have such low-cost energy at the end of it they’d be the terror of the capitalist system. Low energy and low labour, that’s the ball game.”

But he argues that there is no reason why the west can’t compete. “Anyone who says government can’t do this, or can’t do that, I say a pox on you; have a look at the Manhattan Project. They did remarkable things. They stuck the brightest minds out in the desert. They were herding cats with great egos, but it worked. If we did that on alternative energy, we’d be home free.”

Excerpts from Part II:

[Continuing his point on where capitalism fails us…]

Unfortunately, today, they are the issues that are absolutely central to our long-term wellbeing and even survival. It doesn’t think long-term very well because of high discount rate structure.

If you’re a typical corporation anything lying out 30 years literally doesn’t matter. Or, as I like to say: QED, your grandchildren have no value. And they usually act as if that was true, even though I’m sure they are actually very kind to their grandchildren.

***

It has been remarked before that modern economics is belief in a perpetual motion machine. Capital and labour, but no mention of energy. Without energy the whole thing grinds to a halt and the whole theory is demonstrated to be totally false. I’m late in the game at recognising this.

One of my new heroes is an economist called Kenneth Boulding who, at 22, got a paper into Keynes‘s journal. At the age of about 50 he realised that economics was not taking its job seriously, that it was not interested in utility, in real serious improvement in the world, but that it was increasingly interested in new, elegant mathematical theories designed to get career advancement, over usefulness.

He said the only people who believe you can have compound growth in a finite world are either mad men or economists. He also said: “Mathematics has brought rigor to economics. Unfortunately, it also brought mortis.”

 

A very sobering infographic carrying a lot of information.  Can you imagine if you had to carry all the water you used?  Also, the cost of providing global access to safe water is only $30 billion?

I know, that is a large huge number but when you put it in the context of the things our government wastes money on, it could easily fit in.  When you consider the Iraq war cost us between $3.2-$4 trillion it really puts this number in perspective – we could have provided safe drinking water to everyone on earth 106 times over for that cost – or completed the project one time for what about one month in Iraq cost us.  Now that would win some hearts and minds.  I digress.

SO – if you’re fortunate enough to be Water Rich try to take shorter showers, fix your leaky faucets, and don’t over-water your lawn.  The more you save, the cheaper your beer will be.

Infographic Water Rich Vs PoorSource: Seametrics

Found via Coolinfographics