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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday Links is a little short on solutions

+This is press release-y business jargon, but it still highlights a nice trend in recycling: e-waste recycling. Since heavy metals are necessary for the majority of our hi-tech gadgets, are in short supply, and only real can be found at great human and environmental cost in politically dubious places around the world, it's a good thing that there are companies out there recycling the giant piles of waste created every year as we throw out our iPhones every two years. For an idea of why this is so necessary, check out this 2010 article from NPR, which follows the afterlife of your favorite electronic device.

+We are already paying a tax for climate change...for climate inaction.

+Shock Doctrine: resource scarcity and climate change will create all sorts of opportunities for investment in housing, infrastructure, and services as millions of refugees move into existing cities and create new ones.

+But I am going to talk about the need for smart planning, whether an area is urban or rural. Smart planning means that someone has to be charged with looking out for the long-term and especially for the long-term good of all. In a free society, we elect and appoint people to these roles. That’s what we call government. Government is not some separate entity; it’s “we the people” entrusting leaders and their delegates to plan for the long-term good of all of us. Excellent piece on the need for government and long-term thinking w/r/t societal issues.

+This has been linked about 700 times, so what's the harm in one more. David Simon on the Two Americas. And for extra credit, here's a piece from Adbusters about what's wrong with America. Between these two articles, just about the entirety of the cultural, economic, and political insanity of America is encompassed.

+“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.” The message was signed: "3301”. This has nothing to do with anything really, but I just thought it was one of the most interesting articles I've read in awhile.

+Adam Kotsko has a few reservations about non-violence. I had similar reservations when the cops wantonly beat their way through 50+ Occupy Wall Street encampments across the country and the average citizen and the media looked at the violence and blamed the beaten protesters. Non-violent protest requires political pressure from society in general in order to be truly effective. It only works when society is horrified by the beating of a non-violent protester (ala Civil Rights, 1963); it doesn't work if the average citizen either shrugs at the beatings, or actively roots on the establishment. I think the Iraq war protests in 2003 showed that mass protest is no longer effective, and Occupy Wall Street proved non-violence has lost much of its teeth. The problem is that violent revolution rarely produces a stable, functioning government. As sad as it may appear, the only solution may actually be to radically change the lowest levels of government first and then move up the chain to actual constitutional amendments.

+Even the Harvard Business Review is pointing out the obvious.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ecological Economics Part IV: Cultural Change

Last time I discussed a few of the options available on the supply side of a steady state economy, and deduced that most every solution requires heavy handed governmental policies that are unlikely to be enacted anytime soon.

One option I forgot to discuss is altering accounting standards to account for the negative side effects of company's products. For instance, if the only rational use for gasoline is to be burned for fuel, and the carbon produced by burning this gasoline has a quantifiable negative effect on the environment, then oil and gas companies could be forced to account for these negative effects on their balance sheets and/or income statements. Consumers are already taxed for this, but producers are allowed to essentially offload all responsibility for the negative side effects of the rational use of their products. Allowing this to continue is immoral and unfair, since some of the worst polluters are allowed to externalize an important social and environmental cost, instead of taking responsibility for their part.