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Old 09-24-2010, 09:46 AM
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Default Is technology and environmentalism compatible? Is technology neutral?

This thread is a fork of Ways To Cope With The Depression Of The Dream Of Pandora Being Intangible. when it came to a debate there.

The question was basically if the visions inspired by Avatari in people about the future can go together, especially technological advances and strong ecological awareness:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aurora
Avatar in generally has inspired vision, the vision itself is very much different in all people and some of the visions certainly contradict each other. I think people who would want to "live like the NA'Vi" in the wild would certainly disagree a lot with advancing technology at the cost of nature even further for the next decades so that people could spacetravel or develop genetics to a point at which making Ikran and glowing plants are possible.
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Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
Advancing technology is NOT mutually exclusive with nature. That's just Ludditism.
While I want to live more closely with nature, there is no reason to avoid technology based on that. Same with space travel, most people opposed to it are stuck in a flat-Earth mentality.
[...]
I see the majority of technology as neutral - it's how you use it, how you apply the knowledge gained, what you do with the ability that matters. Not what is developed.
I dont see the majority of technology as neutral really. Some can be in a certain context - open source software for example is great in the context of software. The use of technology can be positive and negative - one can use GMOs to make money in pesticides (as Monsanto does) or use it to create bioremediation strategies, glowing plants, algae that produce diesel. But the maintenance of technology is not neutral. To have open source software running, you need hardware, that needs mineral ore from open pit mines in Chile (or below surface mines that bury miners), plastics from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, electricity from dams in the Amazon to smelter the ore, the labor of assembly line workers in Taiwan that put the whole thing together and so on. You cant really do it without this, can you? You could make it safe for the workers, ideally even create some socialist society that pays them a fair share of the profits (which would however mean that the product would be way more expensive), but from an environmentalist point of view, there is little that can be done - you have to have mines and you need water and so on - increasing efficiency, strenghten recycling and financing bioremidation efforts are nice, but never can eliminate the problems and risks altogether. And with dwindling resources, these isses are bound rather to increase than to decrease. So that is why I asked you, what your vision would be how this could work - how technology and its widespread use by all people and environmentalism can truely go together?
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Old 09-24-2010, 05:35 PM
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Firstly, I don't think they can every go together.

While I do *like* technology, I don't believe in it. Some say technology will "save us", some even claim that it's the only way.. But I see it this way: as we (humanity) continue to pollute air, water and other things, we will soon need the technology to clean them for us.. Our most basic vital functions will become dependent on it.

One would see no problem in it.. But how could we possibly stay sane in such an environment? I could definitely not. I am a nature lover, yes, but I'd argue that _everyone_ else is too, at least deep inside.
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Old 09-24-2010, 05:43 PM
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Well, the eventual (if still relatively distant) solution is matter replication, which eliminated shortages of anything but needs large amounts of energy and will only be practical even when it's possible once fusion is a viable source of energy unless an alternative is used such as a Dyson Sphere (which is itself far more complicated and expensive than development of fusion ).

I know your view on all this, after all, all you need to do is look at your sig , but for me and I'm sure for the vast majority of people here, technology is not going to go, and if it does, the truth is that with the current level of overpopulation, loss of what we have would be an even bigger risk to the biodiversity of the planet as inhospitable areas would become almost completely uninhabitable and far more rainforest would need to be destroyed for agriculture. Not to mention that without any technology, several billion people would starve within a few years, more over time. World wars would probably be enough to destroy all or the majority of the rest of the population. The cost to the planet's biodiversity would be catastrophic - no point preserving rainforest when you need that land for food. No point preserving some rare species when you can't eat them and they eat animals you depend on to survive. No WAY to preserve them even.
You talk about mining, yet you don't realise that even in lower technology, mining would have to be performed in order to produce most objects, without the controls today that help minimise impact (not saying they are perfect, as in many countries there is far too much corruption and efforts to save money which result in their often being overlooked, but that's a societal issue).

Technology enables new possibilities, it allows us to learn more about the world (I suppose you'd think that's negative though), allows us to experience new places and people, it connects us all. It has been massively abused in the past, but there is no reason to blame the tool instead of the person using it.
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Old 09-24-2010, 05:45 PM
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Technology for covering the needs of every single human being, and freeing them from the most hard work is the only fair use I can picture. For there is enough for all of us, but our economies are based on scarcity and thus misusing the resources in desires for ones, and making others starve.

Er... I'm getting carried away with another argument.

I think they are compatible -but in measure. We can't live without machines, they make surviving easier -but neither expect from them to make all the work for us and cover things we don't need.

Those bad uses of technology can only end in resource and human abuse.
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Old 09-24-2010, 10:06 PM
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Thank you for your replies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fosus View Post
While I do *like* technology, I don't believe in it. Some say technology will "save us", some even claim that it's the only way.. But I see it this way: as we (humanity) continue to pollute air, water and other things, we will soon need the technology to clean them for us.. [...]how could we possibly stay sane in such an environment? I could definitely not. I am a nature lover, yes, but I'd argue that _everyone_ else is too, at least deep inside.
I guess I agree with a lot of this. I have that dilemma - I also like technology. I used to do a lot with computers and electronics and I like to use this forum and I like beeing able to visit foreign countries and fly a hangglider. Its fun and all. There seem to be technological solutions that are promising to solve one or another thing. Organic solar cells, carbon fibre materials and so on. the potential to do a lot of good is there, I am however still in doubt about true sustainability (meaning that the development can go on indefinitely). There even is technology that minimizes or even eliminates pollution for the one or another thing.
Definitely sanity would suffer greatly from living in an increasingly artificial environment at least for me. I'd like to think, that all people are nature lovers deep inside, but I cannot be sure - many dont show it really and dig technology and artificial environment instead. Maybe I am part of a dying branch in evolution? I dont knoe. I feel a bit sad right now, so I hope my writings still make sense.

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Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
Well, the eventual (if still relatively distant) solution is matter replication, which eliminated shortages of anything but needs large amounts of energy and will only be practical even when it's possible once fusion is a viable source of energy
Come on that is a techno fantasy. I am not talking SciFi here but about what is realistic within the timeframe that humanity and the earth has and that is a few decades. Of course i could fantasize about a distant techno-utopia in which humans live in nice villages, can get everything on demand and keep 90% of the world as a nature reserve out of good will. But that is about as likely as any of the futuristic dreams people in the past envisioned for our time from flying intelligent cars to space hotels and underwater cities. Besides, this is all based on HOPE only - one can hope that technology will exist to provide this, but it is not even possible yet to say if matter replication, fusion or faster than light travel is possible at all... To base the future on hope only is a bad bet, I would say.

Quote:
I know your view on all this, after all, all you need to do is look at your sig , but for me and I'm sure for the vast majority of people here, technology is not going to go
Well - my sig says something else. It says actually that I dont regard tools (which is my term for technologies that are not in themselves destructive) as a bad thing, but that people have "lost their way" in dealing with their inventiveness. And as long as that is so, I think increasing technology at least bears a strong potential for further destruction - and up to now that potential usually has always shown. And if the only other alternative is to go no-tech, than that would be my choice indeed - rather live a no-tech life than destruction of the earths ecology.
So my question here was, if technological development in the near future is compatible with a continued existence of the natural world?

To argue against the dissappearance of technology with the "millions would die" argument is to be expected. Also the argument that people would probably damage the ecology if collapse happens now. The question when it comes to these issues is, what will happen if things continue as they head now. My fear is, that if not something changes now, civilization is heading for a collapse anyways. Population will increase even more, pollution and global warming will increase and so damage to ecosystems will increase. And eventually either one of the technologies gets out of hand, or civilization reaches a point at which it starts to fail with the same consequences as you feared - just decades later with even less nature and landbase to turn to.
The only way out of it is to hope and wish for a technological solution that creates a new utopia by actually solving all the problems. Do you think that this is a likely course? What would have to change to make it likely?

Quote:
You talk about mining, yet you don't realise that even in lower technology, mining would have to be performed in order to produce most objects
Well, I dont see it that way. For once, for a long time, there are plenty of resources available "in the open" for centuries or more - useable by recycling. I can just imagine how many metal knives and pots you could make from a scap car - If a low use of resources happens, the resources would last way longer. And of course there is also the alternative of a no-resource way of life - this is basically "stone age" and I ask myself, if this maybe the only truely sustainable way in the end. (In the correct sense, meaning that it is a way of life that can go on indefinitely while a way of life that requires resources always eventually runs out of these resources)

Quote:
Technology enables new possibilities, it allows us to learn more about the world (I suppose you'd think that's negative though), allows us to experience new places and people, it connects us all. It has been massively abused in the past, but there is no reason to blame the tool instead of the person using it.
Well, this may surprise you but I love knowledge! I am a scientist after all, I studied the world, I studied resource geology and ecosystem science and physics, chemistry and biology. I experienced new place and that are nice experiences. I also see the impact that doing all this has on the very thing I wanted to see though and that deeply saddens me. By flying to Thailand in a Jet, I contribute to the destruction of the coral reefs I visited there. That cant work.
In my sig I say, that the relationship of people towards the tools and towards other people has to change fundamentally. This is what you also say basically by saying you "blame the person using the tool". So the question is, how - realistically! - such a change could come about. This culture, this civilization fostered a mindset that I reckon makes it virtually impossible for the people living within that system to truely break out of it. Every technology developed within this system will eventually be abused and with increasingly powerful technologies, the potential (and often actual) damage is also increasing. Nanotechnology has the potential to turn the planets surface into a wasteland, biotechnology can create organisms that wipe out whole species, including humans. And even now, people think about what will happen if biotech would be used to that ends (by intention or accident) and they feel helpless.
So unless all the people undergo a worldwide "shift of consciousness" as some 2012-believers say will happen by then, I dont see that this society will undergo such a change.
So a question: Do you think, this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sustainable way of life and a responsible use of technology?
Please - this is not a rhethoric question - do you think such a voluntary change is likely?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZenitYerkes View Post
Technology for covering the needs of every single human being, and freeing them from the most hard work is the only fair use I can picture. For there is enough for all of us, but our economies are based on scarcity and thus misusing the resources in desires for ones, and making others starve.
Well then it is a case of economy? Would a change in economy solve the problem? Would in the ideal case the creation of a truely democratic egalitarian society enable technology to be used only in a positive way, helping people and the ecology all the way?
Or would even then there be people who misuse technology, would population still increase and suffocate the planet, would resource consumption still require damaging the natural world?

Quote:
I think they are compatible -but in measure. We can't live without machines, they make surviving easier -but neither expect from them to make all the work for us
What is that measure - at what point do you think it starts to become unacceptabe? Where do you draw the line? What size of mining operation or how many ppm CO2 in the atmosphere or how many acres of land turned into farmland are within that measure? At what point would you say, the whole thing becomes unsustainable?

Greetings and I look forward to your reply. Please dont consider all of the questions as rhetorical, I am really hoping you can think of an answer to them.

Aurora
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Old 09-25-2010, 07:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
I guess I agree with a lot of this. I have that dilemma - I also like technology. I used to do a lot with computers and electronics and I like to use this forum and I like beeing able to visit foreign countries and fly a hangglider. Its fun and all. There seem to be technological solutions that are promising to solve one or another thing. Organic solar cells, carbon fibre materials and so on. the potential to do a lot of good is there, I am however still in doubt about true sustainability (meaning that the development can go on indefinitely). There even is technology that minimizes or even eliminates pollution for the one or another thing.
So you agree with me? That is what I was saying
Quote:
Definitely sanity would suffer greatly from living in an increasingly artificial environment at least for me. I'd like to think, that all people are nature lovers deep inside, but I cannot be sure - many dont show it really and dig technology and artificial environment instead. Maybe I am part of a dying branch in evolution? I dont knoe. I feel a bit sad right now, so I hope my writings still make sense.
I'm both at once. Always have been really. I couldn't live without either, I think you'll find that's true for the majority of people.


Quote:
Come on that is a techno fantasy.
Like walking on the moon once was?
Or the discovery of DNA?
Or travelling faster than a ridable animal?...
I just facepalmed IRL

I know you are opposed to any improvement, but that doesn't mean you can deny that it will happen (well, you can, but you're only saying it to yourself...)
Quote:
I am not talking SciFi here but about what is realistic within the timeframe that humanity and the earth has and that is a few decades.
So am I . Anyway, the times left for humans and the earth are very different.
Quote:
Of course i could fantasize about a distant techno-utopia in which humans live in nice villages, can get everything on demand and keep 90% of the world as a nature reserve out of good will. But that is about as likely as any of the futuristic dreams people in the past envisioned for our time from flying intelligent cars to space hotels and underwater cities.
Nobody ever said that would be possible (talking about the first - ironically, the only reason we aren't exploring space is due to governments spending the money on wars for oil instead. Anyway, nobody wants to live underwater , it's dangerous and the pressure causes all sorts of problems.)
Quote:
Besides, this is all based on HOPE only - one can hope that technology will exist to provide this, but it is not even possible yet to say if matter replication, fusion or faster than light travel is possible at all... To base the future on hope only is a bad bet, I would say.
So is what you are wanting. You are basing all of yours on hope too, but just because it's YOUR hope, you think it's more likely than other situations.

Quote:
Well - my sig says something else. It says actually that I dont regard tools (which is my term for technologies that are not in themselves destructive) as a bad thing, but that people have "lost their way" in dealing with their inventiveness. And as long as that is so, I think increasing technology at least bears a strong potential for further destruction - and up to now that potential usually has always shown. And if the only other alternative is to go no-tech, than that would be my choice indeed - rather live a no-tech life than destruction of the earths ecology.
Then go do that if you think you can. you'd be surised at what you'd miss. anyway, if you really want no technology, you would be far below how ANY human or humanoid has lived.

Quote:
So my question here was, if technological development in the near future is compatible with a continued existence of the natural world?
Again, yes, simply because the main issue facing us is overpopulation.

Quote:
To argue against the dissappearance of technology with the "millions would die" argument is to be expected.
Ironic you're the first person to mention it then.

Quote:
Also the argument that people would probably damage the ecology if collapse happens now.
Yep. Because nobody can think of a way around it. there is no way 7 billion people can live one one small planet without the methods that have been developed over hundreds of years, no to mention the lack of scale - doing anything small-scale is less efficient - when this goes for food, it means far more space and resources are needed (as well as time per person)

Quote:
The question when it comes to these issues is, what will happen if things continue as they head now. My fear is, that if not something changes now, civilization is heading for a collapse anyways. Population will increase even more, pollution and global warming will increase and so damage to ecosystems will increase. And eventually either one of the technologies gets out of hand, or civilization reaches a point at which it starts to fail with the same consequences as you feared - just decades later with even less nature and landbase to turn to.
I never said humans weren't likely to destroy themselves. Kind of sad really because we have the potential to solve all our problems if we worked together, but people don't want to.
I came to terms with humanity's eventual end a long time ago.

Quote:
The only way out of it is to hope and wish for a technological solution that creates a new utopia by actually solving all the problems. Do you think that this is a likely course? What would have to change to make it likely?
Do you think that yours is any more likely?


Quote:
Well, I dont see it that way. For once, for a long time, there are plenty of resources available "in the open" for centuries or more - useable by recycling. I can just imagine how many metal knives and pots you could make from a scap car
Nott as much as you might think - iron oxidises rapidly, and is then no use. Anyway, with no technology, how would you process the materials?
Quote:
- If a low use of resources happens, the resources would last way longer. And of course there is also the alternative of a no-resource way of life - this is basically "stone age" and I ask myself, if this maybe the only truely sustainable way in the end. (In the correct sense, meaning that it is a way of life that can go on indefinitely while a way of life that requires resources always eventually runs out of these resources)
Something tells me that if you had less in life, you wouldn't think that way. If you DID have nothing and were struggling to survive. There's a reason humans didn't end up facing extinction, because despite being physically not that well adapted, they evolved a much greater intelligence and the ability adapt. Ironically, 'stone age' is not 'no technology' either.

Quote:
Well, this may surprise you but I love knowledge! I am a scientist after all, I studied the world, I studied resource geology and ecosystem science and physics, chemistry and biology. I experienced new place and that are nice experiences. I also see the impact that doing all this has on the very thing I wanted to see though and that deeply saddens me. By flying to Thailand in a Jet, I contribute to the destruction of the coral reefs I visited there. That cant work.
Then why go?
Because you wanted to experience it. You wanted to appreciate the world. that can be done responsibly.

Quote:
In my sig I say, that the relationship of people towards the tools and towards other people has to change fundamentally. This is what you also say basically by saying you "blame the person using the tool". So the question is, how - realistically! - such a change could come about. This culture, this civilization fostered a mindset that I reckon makes it virtually impossible for the people living within that system to truely break out of it. Every technology developed within this system will eventually be abused and with increasingly powerful technologies, the potential (and often actual) damage is also increasing.
Depends...
Quote:
Nanotechnology has the potential to turn the planets surface into a wasteland,
So does lighting a fire... Ironically, earlier you went on about me not being realistic, and now you're talking about nanotechnology? A realistic implementation is almost as far off as current expectations of future technology get.
We already have FAR greater capability than would be needed to wipe out everything... yet we haven't.
Nobody is stupid enough to what it means they would destroy themselves too.
Watch 'Wargames' sometime... you'd learn a lot from it. Somehow, in the 65 years we have had nuclear weapons, we've survived, despite all sorts of nutters having them from communists to religious nuts. Because nobody wants to ensure their own destruction.

People are genetically programmed to survive, nobody consciously acts against that.
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Old 09-25-2010, 07:43 AM
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biotechnology can create organisms that wipe out whole species, including humans.
So can untreated diseases.
Quote:
And even now, people think about what will happen if biotech would be used to that ends (by intention or accident) and they feel helpless.
Speak for yourself.
Quote:
So unless all the people undergo a worldwide "shift of consciousness" as some 2012-believers say will happen by then, I dont see that this society will undergo such a change.
I thought we were having a scientific discussion here... Why bring 2012 into it?
Quote:
So a question: Do you think, this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sustainable way of life and a responsible use of technology?
Please - this is not a rhethoric question - do you think such a voluntary change is likely?
Yes- if the alternative is destruction,and if the capability is there.

Humans are on a path of no return. There are 2 ways off it, ending in destruction, or a new future. The past is no longer an option, because too much has happened. Ironically, if everything DID regress, sooner or later, a new civilisation would start... Perhaps things wouldn't go as well as they did this time and humans would wipe themselves out.

Quote:
Well then it is a case of economy? Would a change in economy solve the problem? Would in the ideal case the creation of a truely democratic egalitarian society enable technology to be used only in a positive way, helping people and the ecology all the way?
Or would even then there be people who misuse technology, would population still increase and suffocate the planet, would resource consumption still require damaging the natural world?
Population has to be part of the balance. I would guess you're probably opposed to space exploration (more technology) but it allows growth without overpopulation.



Quote:
What is that measure - at what point do you think it starts to become unacceptabe? Where do you draw the line? What size of mining operation or how many ppm CO2 in the atmosphere or how many acres of land turned into farmland are within that measure? At what point would you say, the whole thing becomes unsustainable?
I never said a specific limit was the idea, I think you misunderstood... A balance is when no action needs to be taken and all things remain stable by themselves.
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Old 09-25-2010, 01:27 PM
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Huh HumanNoMore. I really got surprised by your aggression in this topic. Please don't just go "facepalm you're wrong". Explain why you think someone is wrong.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Human No More
...ironically, the only reason we aren't exploring space is due to governments spending the money on wars for oil instead...
This is not true. If (for example) US government stopped all those wars for resources, they could not go to space anymore for the exact reason of not having enough resources to do so. This applies to every country who have already used their own resources. Earths resources are limited, in time space travelling will become much more difficult.

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I never said humans weren't likely to destroy themselves. Kind of sad really because we have the potential to solve all our problems if we worked together, but people don't want to.
This is also incorrect. Given that we all worked together, how exactly should we act to solve _all_ our problems?
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Old 10-03-2010, 11:57 AM
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This is not true. If (for example) US government stopped all those wars for resources, they could not go to space anymore for the exact reason of not having enough resources to do so. This applies to every country who have already used their own resources. Earths resources are limited, in time space travelling will become much more difficult.
To in the long run sustain space travelling the resources must be taken from other bodies in space (the moon, asteroids, comets, other planets and so on). It is rather improductive to use the Earths resourses for space travelling.

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Old 10-04-2010, 04:43 PM
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The resources of our solar system are greater than any on Earth... setting up an energy collection system from the sun for example could theoretically provide far more power than is available on Earth, depending on the scale of it, not to mention the resources of the asteroids and gas giants.
If humans remain stuck on Earth, resources WILL eventually run out, even with minimal use.
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Old 10-31-2010, 10:16 PM
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Just because I build a bulldozer, clear a few trees, and construct a house for myself does not mean that I am hurting the environment. In fact, I find the phrase "hurting the environment" rather misleading. We don't "hurt" the environment, we put strain on the environment. The ecosystem naturally recycles itself and is definitely capable handling large amounts of stress. Its when we place too much stress on the ecosystem that we overstep our bounds.

Just because we have currently overstepped our bounds does not mean that we have to shut down all progress. We just need to slow it down to a sustainable level. We can have cars, appliances, farms, large scale industry, and more advanced forms of technology so long as our impact on the world does not exceed its capacity to rejuvinate naturally.

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Old 11-05-2010, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Banefull View Post
We can have cars, appliances, farms, large scale industry, and more advanced forms of technology so long as our impact on the world does not exceed its capacity to rejuvinate naturally.
Which it will.. as humans are on the top of the food chain. Nothing attacks us, we will continue to overpopulate this planet. I'd love someone to prove me wrong though..
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Old 11-08-2010, 06:47 PM
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@HNM: I wrote a long answer to your two-part post, but it seems to have gone lost - I will write it again later.

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Originally Posted by Banefull View Post
Just because I build a bulldozer, clear a few trees, and construct a house for myself does not mean that I am hurting the environment. In fact, I find the phrase "hurting the environment" rather misleading. We don't "hurt" the environment, we put strain on the environment. The ecosystem naturally recycles itself and is definitely capable handling large amounts of stress. Its when we place too much stress on the ecosystem that we overstep our bounds.
And imposing stress on someone else is not hurting him? Or even violating him? If I do something that puts you under stress and maybe even not give you anything in return, but rather take, would you not feel hurt or violated? Actually I know such a situation: If I would come over to you and rob you, that would put stress on you, I would take and not give back and you would be stressed but not to a point you cannot revocer. Humans can handle great amounts of stress you know... So what civilized humans are doing now is nothing short of robbery. The only way it can be justified is to say that the natural world, Earth, is not alive or at least not sentient and thus unable to feel the stress or hurt. Such a mechanistic worldview is common in civilization and I think that it is wrong - not neccesarily out of spiritual reasons, but also simply because such a worldview propagates exactly the situations we are in now. If people think they can live on a planet with diminished biodiversity by engineering climate control machines and bioengineer plants that can live with global warming - if people treat the planet as a lifeless thing, they will eventually destroy it. Maybe they will manage by some technology to stay alive and maybe even keep some pet plants for gardens or as a life support system or for food production, but that's it. If everything in nature has to have a value for humans to have the right to be preserved, this is going to be a dire place.

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Originally Posted by Banefull View Post
Just because we have currently overstepped our bounds does not mean that we have to shut down all progress. We just need to slow it down to a sustainable level. We can have cars, appliances, farms, large scale industry, and more advanced forms of technology so long as our impact on the world does not exceed its capacity to rejuvinate naturally.
Ok, let me ask you one thing: What is your definition of sustainability? My definition is that something can be done indefinitely. You can use exactly as much wood as will grow back or eat as much food as the land can provide or take as many mineral resources as are formed. But if you look at the latter, you will run into a problem, as mineral resources form over millions of years. Even if you drop resource consumption to 1/10th of the current level (by recycling for example), they will last only for some more decades. And that is at present development - it is commonly accepted however that the desire is to give all 7 billion people the same living standards, which is when it just ceases to work out.
The difference that is hit here is between renewable resources (soil, water, air, wind energy, solar energy, biomass) and nonrenewable ones. And sadly, these days even agricultural land is depleted beyond its regenerative capacity due to soil loss caused by industrial agriculture. The non renewables are of course REEs (for "green energy"),metals, fossil fuels, nuclear fuels, P-fertilizer, gas (as a fossil fuel and as the origin of N-fertilizers).
What kind of level of resource consumption and technology thus do you think is sustainable?

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Originally Posted by redpaintednavi View Post
To in the long run sustain space travelling the resources must be taken from other bodies in space (the moon, asteroids, comets, other planets and so on). It is rather improductive to use the Earths resourses for space travelling.
I have several problems with that. For once, it would mean that we achieve the level of a spacefaring, asteroid mining species within the next maybe 3 decades and I dont see that. Just to fly to Mars, which is not as far as the asteroid belt, is a huge challenge. Then even if humans do so (with unforseeable consequences), this may allow them to expand further, to spread out into the tens of billions of people living in some life-support-dependent chambers. But then what? Within a century or two the next limit will be reached and expansion has to go further. Maybe interstellar travel is possible and huamns can spread on and on?
But the whole thing is exponential growth. I am sure you heard about the famous story on the chinese emperor. A person who has done agreat service for the emperor asks for only one small thing. Take a checkerboard and put one grain of rice on the first square, then twice as much on the next and the numbers of rice grains on the board are what he wants as payment. The emperor laughed and agreed, only to find out that the amount of rice was of orders of magnitude larger than all the rice in the world.
The first square was maybe the invention of agriculture in the fertile crescent (before it was made infertile by agriculture), the second maybe horsepulled plows in Europe, then crop rotation, then industrialized farming with machines, then the "green revolution" with fertilizers and pesticides, the next may be GMOs. Each time the population exploded as a result. If the next steps are colonization of the Moon or Mars or the Solar System, you can see, that in exponential growth even these vast resources are soon becoming limiting.
As the first settlers to the USA could not imagine that once the land would become scarce for agriculture, as the developers of the first PCs thought 640 kilobytes will forever be enough memory for such a machine and the industrial fishery was convinced that the abundance of fish in the ocean could never be depleted - just as all of them have been proven wrong by the nature of exponential growth, so even if a new abundant source of XY is found, it will not change the problem unless some other limiting factor comes into play. In nature, a population (or resource consumption) is always limited by the most scarce factor (often food). The only hope humanity has to beat the exponential growth curve is to either hit a scarecity (resources, energy, impossibility of interstellar travel) or to somehow self-impose such a limitation (which is unlikely to happen as civilized people are always in an arms race/food race/technology race, competing against someone else for domination).
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  #14  
Old 11-08-2010, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
Ok, let me ask you one thing: What is your definition of sustainability? My definition is that something can be done indefinitely. You can use exactly as much wood as will grow back or eat as much food as the land can provide or take as many mineral resources as are formed.
To me, it's making them last as long as humanity will. This means saving what there is and recycling what has already been produced.

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But if you look at the latter, you will run into a problem, as mineral resources form over millions of years. Even if you drop resource consumption to 1/10th of the current level (by recycling for example), they will last only for some more decades. And that is at present development - it is commonly accepted however that the desire is to give all 7 billion people the same living standards, which is when it just ceases to work out.
Exactly why the Earth is hugely overpopulated. As it is, there are only a few resources that are measured in decades (oil and possibly gas) which is why dependence on those needs to be removed - others are nowhere near as limited.

If you're interested, here's my result form the test, I've done these a few times and they vary a little but are always around this area: Political Compass Printable Graph

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I have several problems with that. For once, it would mean that we achieve the level of a spacefaring, asteroid mining species within the next maybe 3 decades and I dont see that.
Why an arbitrary limit?
The technology is all in place, as is the knowledge, the only obstructions are political, primarily lack of funding due to unnecessary focus on things which are, for the most part, harmful to the world.

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Just to fly to Mars, which is not as far as the asteroid belt, is a huge challenge.
Not a challenge, it's been known HOW for decades. Nobody just wants to put themselves in the position to do it unilaterally.

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Then even if humans do so (with unforseeable consequences), this may allow them to expand further, to spread out into the tens of billions of people living in some life-support-dependent chambers. But then what? Within a century or two the next limit will be reached and expansion has to go further. Maybe interstellar travel is possible and huamns can spread on and on?
Why such a large population? It is already too large, it would make more sense to stabilise it at a lower population with better quality of life.

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But the whole thing is exponential growth. I am sure you heard about the famous story on the chinese emperor. A person who has done agreat service for the emperor asks for only one small thing. Take a checkerboard and put one grain of rice on the first square, then twice as much on the next and the numbers of rice grains on the board are what he wants as payment. The emperor laughed and agreed, only to find out that the amount of rice was of orders of magnitude larger than all the rice in the world.
Yes, I've heard that story before, but since population does not ALWAYS increase in orders of magnitude (indeed, birth rates are dropping), it isn't relevant.
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The first square was maybe the invention of agriculture in the fertile crescent (before it was made infertile by agriculture), the second maybe horsepulled plows in Europe, then crop rotation, then industrialized farming with machines, then the "green revolution" with fertilizers and pesticides, the next may be GMOs.
Not with all the current wastes of resources like biofuels and the increasing standard of living in many developing countries which greatly increases demand. There won't be room for new growth, but it will allow support of what has already happened.

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Each time the population exploded as a result. If the next steps are colonization of the Moon or Mars or the Solar System, you can see, that in exponential growth even these vast resources are soon becoming limiting.
Or spreading out a too-dense population with stable numbers.
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  #15  
Old 11-15-2010, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
To me, it's making them last as long as humanity will. This means saving what there is and recycling what has already been produced.
To me this means using resources just like Aurora described. I mean, if resources were used like aurora described, humanity would last forever as long as Earth does.
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