Monday, September 23, 2019

Redefining GDP to include more forms of progress

In Greta Thunberg's speech at U.N. Climate Session, she criticizes talk about money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. GDP growth could be a bad thing. For many, this would be a real hard pill to swallow.

In my own opinion, I am not a big fan of increasing wealth and economic growth, but I am a fan of progress. There are many forms of progress that are not measured by traditional measures of GDP. Human rights, health, more free time, meaningful conversations, friendships less burden of work; even erotic pleasure; to name a few. This calls for major changes in culture and lifestyles all over the world.

People tend to be more comfortable with technological progress and technological progress is a great thing. That can happen also.

On the subject of technology, much of that progress is not measured in our faulty figures for GDP. The tiny and inexpensive Smartphone offers us so much yet it's monetary price adds very little to GDP compared to the multi million dollar computer I saw in the mid 1970's when I toured the computer center at Washington State University. That computer boosted 2.5 megabytes of RAM memory which was significant back then. Todays, far more features of the Smartphone hardly tip the scales in people's perception of their wealth.

Advanced technology is one road to less energy use. Think LED lights.

We are living in a time of great abundance, yet our economic situation puts many folks only a paycheck or two out of poverty. Maybe we can't grow our way to a sense of fulfillment, security and peace of mind. That shift in thinking is an economic challenge in the West.

Meanwhile; especially in what's called the Third World, the traditional measure of GDP growth is possibly even more sought after. As world population grows and more people rise out of poverty, there is continued pressure to provide more jobs, homes, cars and so forth.

Immigration adds some population growth in the west also driving some of this pressure here.

I think we have to redefine what progress means. Think less in terms of traditional wealth and more in terms of other qualities in life.

There is some anger in her statements. I hope this doesn't provoke a war between the generations.

Here's another item in the news.

Climate change fight should be 'sexy' and 'fun', Japan's new environment minister says.

Reminds me of some of my thinking in relation to World Naked Bike Ride. Think about things that motivate people rather than just sacrifice, doom and gloom.

Japan, itself, comes under criticism as new coal plants are under construction there. Problem is that after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, quite a few nuclear plants have been shut down so much of Japan's power needs shifts back to fossil fuel sources.

This environment minister, in the link above, has encouraged the shutdown of nuclear plants as well. Another hard pill to swallow; especially thinking of the islands of Japan having little land area for solar and wind farms.

If Japan can try and go green, even without nuclear, we ought to be able to also, here in USA, with so much of our land area; including our desert lands. Still, it's a challenge.

Here in Whatcom County, there is still a moratorium against wind power in most rural areas of the county. This due, in part, to the property owners, "not in my backyard" issue and also due to the worry about wind farms effect on bats as well as birds; especially bats. Eastern Washington has lots of big wind farms now; like around Ellensburg.

Building solar panels can create economic activity and traditional forms of wealth, but making these changes also can create economic disruption; for instance carbon taxes. Some people gain while others loose in the short run at least. We need lots of new thinking about the economy.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Think how much growing pain grumbling there would be if US population were growing as fast as world population.

World population has doubled since my childhood, but here in the USA, it has not quite doubled. The US population has grown from 200,000,000 to around 325,000,000. Not quite doubling, but still a big jump.

The main point I am making is that we are sure noticing the growing pains, here in USA, yet we still aren't growing as fast as some other parts of the world. Imagine the growing pains we would feel (or at least grumble about) if we were growing as fast as some of the other parts of the world.

One of the most obvious growing pains is the angst about immigration that's mostly expressed on the right side of the political spectrum. Refugees are swelling our ranks, but imagine what it would be like if 1/3 of our population was recent refugees. I hear that was the situation in the small country of Jordan which sits right next door to Syria; a nation which has been crumbling.

We hear growing pains on both the left and the right. Most people, on the left, don't seem to grumble about immigration, but there is a lot of anxiety over new construction and development. There's quite a bit of worry about all the new construction here in Bellingham. I also hear that California is behind by 3 million units in the housing construction it would have needed to keep up with its population growth. Housing costs are at a crisis point in many US cities and towns; at least in desirable locations.

Part of the problem is how we go about developing and accommodating people. I hear that 40% of the land area, in Los Angeles, is devoted to asphalt for parking and driving automobiles. This is not just a problem in Los Angeles. We need to rethink lots of things, including how most people transport themselves in our society at least.

Much of the world is still aspiring to live like we do.

Here in the west, our human rights, gay rights and feminism is pretty good, but we do tend to be consumptive societies. Our population growth is more under control. I think part of that is the success of things like gay rights and feminism. Most of our population growth is due to immigration.

In much of what is called the Third World, attitudes about human rights can be a lot worse. Population is growing faster than in the west while many of the people aspire to have similar material wealth to the west. It's like the worst of both worlds.

I know that population growth is slowing down, all over the world, but not slowing down fast enough; especially if one believes that we are close to the breaking point on climate change.

As for the west, we really need to rethink things like jet travel and automobile dependency unless we can find green alternatives to power these things. We are making progress, but is the progress coming in time?

I like the insightful comments I got to this post on my Facebook wall. One can see most of them, I think, if logged into Facebook tho not necessarily in my friends list.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Thinking about agriculture. The pressure to industrialize.

Interesting article came up in my Facebook news feed.

Destructive farming is the issue — not whether you eat meat or vegetables.

I reposted article and then I also put what's below in the comments to my own repost.

Besides the farming techniques talked about in article, I think a lot of the problem is just the sheer volume of meat and food we consume. Even meat is okay in moderation, but depends on how it's done. Humane treatment of animals is an issue tho.

As for the environment, overpopulation needs to be discussed. Also over consumption. So much of our food is wasted. There is a lot of pressure for big scale industrial agriculture. Grain fed feedlots and so forth. With less pressure for low price and volume of production, smaller, family style agriculture can work. In USA, we tend to pay too much for housing and medical care while not enough for food as a percent of household budget. Good food does require something from us.

As for meat, things like cattle can help the soil if handled properly. In marginal and dry areas, cow hoofs can till the soils while cow pies add humus. In moderation, meat is okay, but there is too much pressure to create volume for mass consumption. The pressure leading to industrialization.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

A right wing politician critical of gay rights and now, not surprising, the Amazon is burning

I often connect the issues of sexual politics and reproduction to environmental issues. Most people don't discuss that connection very often. They put gay rights and feminism in the human rights compartment of their compartmentalized thinking. Environmental issues are in another compartment. I often connect the two with the issue of overpopulation.

I'm not surprised that not long after Brasil elected this right wing president, the fires have gotten worse in the Amazon. I'll admit that maybe I am reinforcing my own bias as I just did a Google search with the words Jair Bolsonaro (president of Brasil) and Gay Rights to see what came up. This article came to the top. I had heard that Bolsonaro was not friendly to gay rights. This article brings that point home tho it isn't new news. It came out in April 2019.

One can also blame part of the problems in Brasil on the traditional left, or at least some of the leftist politics of Venezuela. Venezuela has a left wing government that has made lots of promises to the people which, apparently, it is not able to keep. The Venezuelan economy has been imploding causing lots of refugees to flee into other Latin American countries; including Brasil. Venezuela is on Brasil's northern border near where the Amazon region is located.

Population growth, in part from refugees, may be one factor adding to the pressure to lift environmental restrictions in the Amazon. The pressure of farmers, miners and so forth trying to make a living.

Venezuela's economy is based, mostly, on fossil fuels. I think the true solutions are to reduce population growth and reduce dependency on the fossil fuel economy. Often those type of goals are not talked about in the mainstream right or left wing circles. One problem Venezuela has faced is the volatility of oil prices. When prices go up, promises can be made, but when prices go down, promises are broken.

Remember, even if climate change is subtle and not as alarming as some people think, we still have to find a way to feed, house and employ possibly 4 billion more inhabitants on Planet Earth by the end of this century due to projected population growth.

As to the problem of meat consumption, this chart was of interest to me. Brasil being the world's largest meat exporter feeding many countries, around the world, such as Egypt, with growing populations and rising material aspirations. Clearing of rain forest is largely driven by beef consumption.

Interesting that the US is not clear at the top of the list. Consumption is a worldwide problem related largely to population. The US does get lots of blame, but the problem is worldwide. I would guess the US grows lots of its own beef so Brazilian beef sources are less important. The US is still on the list, however. It's still in the top 10.

I found this chart in another interesting article.

Hong Kong is at top of this list with the large population of China a second.

Lists like this also bring up more questions for me. Hong Kong is small, tho densely populated. Is Hong Kong also shipping beef along into China? It's listed separate from China.

The Middle East is a big importer of Brazilian beef, according to this chart. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE.

As to my own meat consumption, I do eat some meat, but try to eat mostly plant based things. Better for health also. I do drink lots of milk, admittedly.