Climate Change is Not Going Away


Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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73 Responses

  1. Avatar Fnord says:

    As a rule of thumb, anyone who mentions the Keystone pipeline as a terrible thing (at least, without a better argument than “it carries GHG producing oil”) gets written off as not having their facts straight, not thinking the problem all the way through, or simply being blinded by ideology. Everything I’ve seen says Canada will be taking advantage of the oil sands anyway. It’s simply a matter of how; they can ship them by tanker from Canadian ports if they have to.

    Nevertheless, I did read this piece, but it didn’t give me any cause to change my mind about that rule. The general theory that “physics won’t wait” is true, but unfortunately the implied converse is not true. While some problems (like gay rights, as he cites) are headed in the right direction anyway, that’s not true of all problems. Contra Mr. McKibben, the problems with the healthcare system DO get worse as time passes.

    There a problematic little details, too. If you’re making the case that global warming is a crisis needing immediate drop-everything attention, it’s a little incongruous to pause to take a shot at Obama on smog and ozone. That’s not the same problem, and if global warming really needs immediate attention and we have no time to talk about healthcare or education, then we have no time to stop to talk about smog either.

    Incidentally, I did some quick googling to find out his position on nuclear energy. I was not surprised to find that he was opposed. I’m not going to deny that nuclear power has downsides. But, again, either global warming is a crisis that demands we make sacrifices or it isn’t.

    I do think global warming is a real problem and needs to be dealt with. But people like Bill McKibben are doing us no favors at this point.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      This is an awesome comment.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      This comment is a bit too defeatist for me.

      There are two ways to curb emissions (granted one is a bit harder than the other): we can concentrate on generating more energy in cleaner ways, or we can concentrate on using efficiently the energy we already produce.

      As it is, I happen to be a proponent of nuclear power in the long run, provided we put in place comprehensive safety measures that effectively nullify risk – and such safety technologies are making good progress.

      But increasing the total power output of our civilization is not necessary in the short run (or even in the foreseeable future for that matter – my endorsement of nuclear power assumes significantly higher energy demand than there is presently).

      There is a huge, powerful interest in maintaining the status quo of waste and voracious consumption, and really that, more than anything is what’s keeping you and I driving our own cars to work everyday instead of riding a train.

      The Nation tends to have a general tone of arrogant righteousness that turns thoughtful readers off. At times it’s almost as if the whole enterprise is put together by deep-cover conservatives. But McKibben is right that future energy needs can be met simply by utilizing our present energy output more efficiently.

      Companies competing for Federal blessings have put a lot of money into convincing you otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        “There is a huge, powerful interest in maintaining the status quo of waste and voracious consumption, and really that, more than anything is what’s keeping you and I driving our own cars to work everyday instead of riding a train. ”

        That huge powerful interest is the collective decision making of millions of people. Sure, there is path dependence with 100 years of automobile infrastructure built up, but it isn’t a conspiracy.

        Or rather, it *is* a conspiracy, but one that not only involves corporations doing their corparatey things, but also federal, state, and local officials, and the clear majority of consumers and the voting populace.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence” – Napoleon Bonaparte.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          We have no disagreement here.

          Do you disagree with my point above then?Report

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            Only to the extent that you agree with McKibben that the main, or even biggest obstacle to doing anything meaningful about climate change is “the most lucrative business on Earth [link that actually detracts from his assertion removed], the fossil fuel industry,” with the phrase “a huge, powerful interest” – which I read as singular.

            And that bringing the 4 billion or so people not currently up to first world living standards *will* require a significant increase in global energy throughput, especially for the bottom billion, who are practically using nothing now. (but who are actually causing more than their share of environmental degradation – because they don’t have the energy and other infrastrure not too).Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              Regarding McKibben’s assertion that the fossil fuel industry is the biggest obstacle to legislative change: let’s not pretend that the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying power in Washington isn’t outsized. Pretty much any poll not conducted by Frank Luntz shows Americans support more active emissions curbs or at least emissions levels commensurate with those of other developed nations.

              Regarding your second paragraph, that’s a discussion McKibben is not having. I for one made reference to that in my comment above. Do you find anything there to disagree with?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                “Americans support more active emissions curbs or at least emissions levels commensurate with those of other developed nations.”

                And most people also make a new year’s resolution to eat healthier and exercise more. Desiring something is not the same thing as making lifestyle changes – especially when the clear implication is that someone else (‘polluters’ ‘corporations’ – scare quotes mine) are the ones that are going to change, not yourself.

                “Do you find anything there to disagree with?” I’m not sure what the ‘there’ is referring to. To the overall point that ‘physics’ – the thermodynamics of the troposphere – doesn’t give a flying fig newton about humanity, yeah I agree.

                But as the collective action problem is so large and intractable, and filled with pitfalls big and small, my own preference is toward mitigation and remediation of the effects, not correction (or even so much amelioration) of the cause.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                There are actually some fairly basic, painless, inexpensive changes we could make to dramatically cut energy use: eliminating vampire electronics, for instance, switching across the board to fluorescent lights, stricter emissions standards for new cars, etc. – some of which we’re already doing and are making a difference.

                Everyone acknowledges the intractability of the collective action problem, but to say we should go on polluting and wasting when it’s not necessary is pretty pathetic. Sure, we can focus on ameliorating the effects of climate change, but as every single other industrialized nation shows, attacking the cause is not as difficult as you think.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                And most people also make a new year’s resolution to eat healthier and exercise more. Desiring something is not the same thing as making lifestyle changes

                Which is precisely why this sort of change needs to be accomplished by coercion, just like unleaded gasoline.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                I totally agree.

                Is climate change legislation coercive? Yes.

                Is it worth it anyways? Yes.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Speaking of false analogies, you haz it.

                Switching to unleaded gas meant going to the left or right island to get to the correct pump. (and eventually, required nothing at all).

                Saying “rather than driving to work, you need to make sure you get up exactly on time to make your train, and hope that your kids school doesn’t call and say that they’re sick and you need to pick them up and hope your boss doesn’t need an extra few minutes at the end of the day or simply you yourself need it to wrap up some loose ends, oh, and by the way, the round trip takes a bit longer too – so if you want to avoid this, just live closer to work in a smaller apartment, where by the way, we are going to prohibit you from smoking tobacco, and presumably pot when it becomes legal” is a different thing.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Because someone is suggesting making cars illegal?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        One of the problems with McKibben’s approach is that he seems to say we have to do something even if it means terrible consequences for people (radically reduced energy usage, leading to serious economic decline…well, that’s just the price we have to pay). But a) the main reason for concern about AGW is precisely the consequences for people, so if painful consequences are immaterial, then he’s lost the most powerful argument for trying to prevent/limit AGW instead of just living with it. And b) he ignores the political consequences of the consequences he doesn’t care about. He says that physics can’t be stopped, but he doesn’t recognize that a population that is suddenly sent sliding backwards for the long-term can’t be stopped either–the political consequences are as certain and irrevocable as the physics of AGW.

        I’d say that’s why his argument fails, and perhaps does more harm than good. If the message to the public is “we’re going to make you suffer badly, and you’ll just have to accept it,” then he’s almost certainly created more opponents than supporters.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          I think you’re mistaking extremist rhetoric for extremist thought. I didn’t read it that way at all. I read it that suffering some short term economic consequences is worth securing long-term climate stability, but that our political reality will never allow that to happen without drastic action.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            The problem is in thinking that political reality actually could allow for that kind of drastic action. E.g., that the drastic action itself wouldn’t cause a backlash–not by the powerful oil interests but by the demos–that functioned as a negative feedback input, pushing the policy status back to something like our status quo.

            I think he’s made the classic mistake of focusing so passionately on the moral significance of the issue that he’s forgotten that the natural workings of democracy aren’t likely to bend anymore than the physics is.

            But anyway, extremist rhetoric–even if the thought behind it isn’t truly extremist–is likely to do a cause less good than harm, particularly given that for a significant portion of the public it will inevitably be read as evidence for what they already believe, that folks urging action on AGW are in fact just extremists, not serious folks.

            It’s like using all caps on a blog thread. No matter how valid your point, and no matter how necessary it is to make your point, it just ensures that those you really want to listen will not actually listen, but just see it as more evidence that you’re wrong. The idea that if I really really demonstrate my passion by getting louder and louder people will finally wake up and listen is a tempting fantasy, but its just as fantastic as it is tempting.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              I see what you’re saying, and I definitely agree with this point. I especially see how McKibben’s argument is self-defeating in this sense.

              I still think that we can push progressive, comprehensive, strong anti-emissions legislation without a backlash, given the polling referenced above and the status quo of other industrialized nations. Eliminate the special privileges granted to the fossil fuel industry, and we may even start tipping in that direction naturally.Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        I didn’t mean it to be defeatist, I meant to be be critical.

        I think that climate change is a solvable problem. Not before it does any damage (because it’s already done damage), but before it causes too much damage. Energy use in developed nations can, with efficiency measures, probably be held steady for a while or decreased somewhat, although the developing world is another story. I think that there will be sacrifices all around, but I also think those sacrifices are worthwhile (whether there’s the political will to make them, however, is an open question).

        My problem is with McKibben. I don’t think he’s helping.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    And you’re wrong about what Godwin’s law says too. Mr. McKibben fulfilled Mike Goodwin’s theorem in near record time.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Seen from the perspective of less developed countries all the Global Warming hype is misplaced. The West burned wood and coal for two centuries with no thought given to anything but Progress. Mass production was our road to riches. Why not us too? -ask China and India.

    AGW is a weird problem. As the West polluted its way to prosperity it established the model for how it’s done. If there’s a way to hurry the rising nations through their Polluting Phase we might win the AGW struggle.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Would it make sense for us to help every developing country build nuclear power plants? I mean essentially give it to them for free, teach them how to operate it, and then get the hell out of their way (except for the inevitable necessary monitoring of use of nuclear material, of course)?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        There’s definitely a litany of security issues to contend with there.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Would preventing global warming be worth a couple of cities being nuked by terrorists (assuming, say, a gun-type nuke, as used against Hiroshima)?Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

            We could produce the energy ourselves and export it as aid or on the cheap or even in exchange for security consessions (a la DPRK) or in internationally-designated and administered zones – there are workarounds – that make it so we don’t have to have that tradeoff.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Hmm, what are the physics and economics of exporting electricity to Jbouti? How much energy loss would there be on the way? Little enough to make trans-atlantic and continental cables cost-effective?

              But then we’d run into the problem of countries worrying about being energy dependent on the U.S.–and worried with reason, I’d say.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                My point isn’t that we have to produce energy in the continental US and then export it using trans-oceanic cables. But we can definitely find ways to supply the developing world with energy without depending on just burning shit.

                Seasteading, anyone?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                OK, I read the “produce the energy ourselves and export it” as meaning physical export from the U.S. But seasteading might work. We have the technology to set up energy production outside of territorial waters with repurposed deep ocean oil platforms.

                I do think, though, that countries would be iffy about energy dependency if they didn’t control the territory where the production happened. Heck, in the U.S. we get all freaky about oil dependency. So I think a politically viable solution would require setting up on their territory, even though it wouldn’t be technologically necessary. (That assumes that setting up production on their territory, at little to no cost to them, would be politically viable domestically (U.S. politics).)Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                I think your concerns are legitimate ones.

                But, I’m thinking now that a colony of highly-educated, semi-autonomous, energy-producing seasteaders would be a pretty badass (and mutually-beneficial) way to help catalyze clean global development.

                And that’s just one crazy idea that beats buring fossil fuels.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Oh, yeah, I’m all for it. It’s just a matter of earning the confidence of the states/publics they’re going to serve. Making it semi-autonomous, instead of something run by, say, the DOE, would probably go a long way toward that end.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                “But we can definitely find ways to supply the developing world with energy without depending on just burning shit.”

                “Definitely” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. (or alternatively “we can”)

                “Seasteading, anyone?”

                Seasteading is one of the worst ideas the libertarian community has ever come up with.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Singapore is pretty stupid too. What an idiotic idea, to strategically locate politically neutral economic hubs. Stupid stupid stupid because I say so.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        First lesson: never just wade in and officiously Help someone. It’s arrogant and demeaning. Handing out nuclear Tinkertoys is not wise. Progress is stepwise. It must arise from within. Technocrats always jump the gun: such people have good intentions..
        -from which great evils arise. As you Libertarians say: top down solutions.

        It’s been a conundrum for centuries. I don’t have a good answer. Varies by situation and levels of technical competence. Maybe there’s always a Pollution Phase.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          Ah yes, the Prime Directive…Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          “Maybe there’s always a Pollution Phase.”

          “Collapse”, Jared Diamond’s follow-up to “Guns, Germs, and Steel” attempts to explore this topic by analyzing a handful of collapsed civilizations. Flawed though the book is, Diamond shows that environmental destruction is not an inevitability. I believe James Scott’s research, and incidentally Elinor Ostrom’s research (Hanley and I are both admirers) show the same thing.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            It’s not gloom and doom I’m preaching. I say there’s a Pollution Phase in every advance in human society. The Bronze Age left tons of slag everywhere. Some societies make it through just fine. The West did. Doesn’t take long to clean up. Look at the Hudson River.

            The mass production model always has problems. But the gains are so provably great other nations attempt to duplicate our success– and also our failures. We cleaned up our rivers after the steel mills closed.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              we … did?
              Pittsburgh rivers are oilier than anything (natural).
              Polluted through with estrogens and other hormone thingummies.
              And, whenever we get a quarter inch of rain, we get CSOs.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Which rather goes to my point. All those birth control pills end up creating havoc in fish and amphibians. Got an alternative?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Forced sterilization. It would solve all kinds of environmental problems.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yeah. stop using so much stupid plastic. Use more expensive stuff that isn’t quite so weird.
                Also, get the blacks who are using shampoo with estrogen-compounds in it to STOP. (this is probably just an education issue, as nobody’s required to post it on the label).Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That attitude is exactly what I’m preaching against. Poor people don’t have the option of buying Foo Foo Yak Doo Doo Shampoo from someone named Starlight at the All Nacherl Five Hunnerd Percent Markup Store where they play Enya on the Bose sound system.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … people spend oodles more than necessary on their hair, Blaise.
                I mention black people, not because they’re poor, but because it’s shampoo that only black people use (works well with their hair, apparently).Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Interesting conversation. But watch out that you aren’t the one failing to empathize, BP.

                I helped run a dollar store at a clinic for homeless people a few months ago. One man was extremely interested in a bottle of “cocoa butter” we had, but ultimately chose not to buy it because it wasn’t 100%.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              Okay, so now let’s clean up all the carbon we’ve sent into the atmosphere before mollusks go extinct.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Well, I didn’t mean to suggest we just buy up land and plunk down power plants without asking them if they’d like one. 😉

          More seriously, I really wasn’t thinking of it as being top down in the sense of us telling, say, Zambia, “you accept this nuclear power plant or we cut off foreign aid and economically isolate you because you’re bad people who are going to cause global warming,” but as an approach to developing countries to discuss their developmental energy needs and how we can help them achieve it in less polluting ways. To flesh that out further, it would mean listening to their concerns and needs, letting them tell us what they thought they needed and wanted, and if it meant they really wanted hydro or wind or solar instead of nukes, then helping them do that.

          Not that I think the idea will go anywhere in current U.S. politics, but as something to ponder.

          And I think economic history does show there’s always–or at least to date always has been–a pollution phase. Environmental concerns meet the definition of a luxury good–past a certain point of well-being willingness to spend on environmental concerns rises faster than the rate of wealth increase. But if we can find a way to make not-polluting cheap enough for developing countries we might be able to undercut the economic pressures that cause a delay in environmental protection.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Yeah. There might be other models but even the ecotourism model is failing. The elephant and tiger are in trouble. The Mass Producer is the tourist. He’s also the asshole buying rhino horn.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              Ecotourism is far from perfect, but it is far superior to the past paradigms of soul (i.e. missionary – no offense) and resource extraction.

              If the actual biodiversity of a plot of land is what gives it value, the biodiversity of that plot of land will be preserved, instead of it being turned into a plantation for cheap coffee or something. (I wish the Fulbright commission had actually agreed to fund my proposal to go study this in Africa.)Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Does that mean Ethiopian/Yemeni coffee ought to be preserved? ;-PReport

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                I imagine the world’s oldest coffee plantations would qualify for UNESCO World Heritage status if they wanted it. Otherwise, Kafa is definitely on my list of places to go in Ethiopia.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I put much faith in eco- this and eco- that for a long time. I did reforestation work with coffee bushes below the new trees. Recently some of that land was sold for houses. Can’t win. Maybe somewhere with an enlightened government but not Guatemala.

                The allure of the mass production model seems irresistible.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Well, Kenya opted once upon a time to scrap much of its natural heritage for ill-fated agricultural development, whereas Tanzania did not (for incidental reasons). Fast forward a bit, and Tanzania’s tourism industry is empowering one of the highest growth rates in Africa, while Kenya is stagnant.

                And indeed, tourism is the #2 industry in the world behind fossil fuels.

                Interestingly enough, Kenya learned from some of the mistakes Tanzania made, cleaned things up and re-wilded a bit, and is now challenging Tanzania’s safari tourism throne.

                Fifty years ago, dictators in both countries were taking Arab oil bribes in exchange for letters of privilege granting permission to recreationally chain-gun down herds of elephants.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                What the hell is that Cup of Excellence thing doing then, anyway?
                I drink cappuchino, so Guatemalan tends to be a bit tame for me, but Tom’s got some nice coffee from Huehuetenango.(
                It’s not like Guatemala is Peru, which for a while there was burning down the tropical rainforest to make “organic coffee.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Chris, you’re good people, I hate to rain on anyone’s parade. If I ran Guatemala or Tanzania — hell, if you did, I’d support any reasonably enlightened dictator who could save the remaining wild spaces.

                I’d put every democratic and liberal instinct aside if some bastard generalissimo could save the elephant and the tiger.

                But Tanzania only created those wild spaces so the poachers could kill 10,000 elephants a year. The ordinary people come in behind the ivory poachers and eat the meat. Ecotourism should have worked. It’s not working and I don’t know what anyone can do about it, short of shooting trespassers dead on sight in the nature reserves. The Chinese have a lot to answer for, Chris, just like we did when it was the passenger pigeon on the menu.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                What evidence do you have that ecotourism is not working? By all accounts areas with sustained ecotourist presence are doing better in terms of biodiversity than ever before.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                (patiently) Did you take a look at that link, Chris? If that isn’t the evidence that ecotourism isn’t working, I’ve got plenty more.

                Ecotourism, at its core, is just a repackaging of regular ol’ tourism. A good many of these outfits screw the local workers, won’t use local resources, won’t support local communities — these local people don’t have the infrastructure to support some playhouse for the Birkenstock Crowd out in the middle of the jungle. So a few do-gooders come in and think they’re going to change things for the better. They don’t. For all this crap about Minimal Impact, they’re no less intrusive and condescending than some pith-helmeted Victorian on a tour of the Hill Stations, being lugged around on a palanquin by so many litter bearers.

                Do you have any idea how much fuel is required to run a refrigerator 50 km off the beaten path? Or a washing machine? Or a water purification unit? Do you have any idea of the impact on the wildlife when you hack out a nice dry path through the jungle? You put people within five kilometres of a top predator like a jaguar, he simply moves off, if he isn’t poached by virtue of access to the aforementioned beaten path. All that Serengeti hooey, those animals might as well be in a zoo. They’ve all grown up with Land Rovers bumping all over that landscape for generations, to the point where they tolerate them. But let someone get out on foot, they all run like hell.

                These eco-ninnies will never see the real jungle. They’re seeing the ragged fringes around the edges of what little remains. You want to save the wild spaces? You keep people out of them. Everyone. Tanzania got sold a bill of goods. Guatemala, too.

                I’m completely disgusted with the eco-weenies. If they wanted to really save the wild spaces, they’d come with a spade and do some reforestation. And they’d stay the hell out of the jungle. What the hell are they thinking, that the beds they stay in and the beer they drink and the food they eat didn’t come out in the back of some filthy old lorry, belching out diesel fumes, on a road that makes poaching that much more convenient? Who do they think makes their beds and washes their sheets and does the cooking and who pays their salaries and who makes the profits? Where do they think the garbage they create ends up? Or the toilets they flush?

                It’s all too stupid for words.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                The point is not that ecotourism is the best possible system in all worlds. The point is that it beats known alternatives.

                I also don’t really see how providing locals with plastics and running water is a bad thing.

                There’s a certain balance to be struck between modernizing and preserving tradition that is better facilitated by the development of tourism than anything else that really exists.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I’m pretty sure not all tourism is crazy stuff like that.
                If the water’s clear, you can run a water purification unit (bacteria only, not metals) with a couple of batteries. UV light.

                Jaguars don’t stalk humans? Mountain Lions do.

                I wouldn’t mind coming with a spade (although rainforest is tricky to get back, with such a thin topsoil, I’m certain there are places that are relatively easy to save). I’m sick of the people planting trees where they don’t belong.

                Last I checked, there were people running 10 day walking treks up the Incan roads. Yeah, sure, maybe some of what they eat gets there via car. Meh. the people who live up there also use cars, ya know? But if you take out all the “comforts of home” and you have pit toilets… that’s an adventure to me.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                What evidence do you have that ecotourism is not working? By all accounts areas with sustained ecotourist presence are doing better in terms of biodiversity and human rights than ever before, and certainly better than their we’re under the Christians, dictator-farms, oil companies, or juntas.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I give you Flores, Guatemala. It’s the jump-off point for Tikal, the Mayan city. A rum little city. The biotopo nearby hums with the sound of chainsaws as the timber thieves make off with the hardwood.

                I give you also the Yankari National Park in Nigeria and the disgusting Wikki Camp therein. Its elephants are being poached into extinction.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                What do poaching and deforestation have to do with ecotourism? Seems to me like the two are quasi-antithetical.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      The rising nations are also capable of learning from our mistakes. Just look at how well infrastructure is managed in Asia.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        China is well into its Pollution Phase and is not coping well.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          China has chosen that path even though it does not have to. In fact, given the fact that many analysts consider China’s growth rate to be “too fast”, maybe it would make sense to slow it down with some safety and environmental protection.

          Blame the bureaucrats I guess…Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Easy for the West to say. Were in a post-industrial society
            Were already past our Pollution Phase.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              And maybe we’re just out of touch with our humble past, but maybe we actually do believe things could have been done more cautiously and that other nations should modernize with our recommendations at heart; maybe we do actually regret Johnstown and the black lung and asbestos and the Dead Zone.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Regret is the sinner’s luxury. Augustine : Lord give me chastity and continence– but not yet. Those dodos and passenger pigeons were mighty tasty when our ancestors were eating them.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Interesting – the best laid plans or mice and men and whatnot; and yet we in the United States managed to take a pass on the powers of thalidomide to sedate pregnant women.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                We also took the lead out of gasoline. We do learn — after we make the mistakes. We can earnestly entreat the developing nations not to repeat our errors but what alternative do we offer them? I say they’re going to pollute on their way up. Best to attenuate that phase with all possible speed. Start with more efficient stoves and get them to quit chopping down their forests. Quit tolerating child labour. Educate girls. That sort of thing.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says: