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Earth Day’s Subtle Pollution – Article by Edward Hudgins

Earth Day’s Subtle Pollution – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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On the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, my high school class traveled to the Mall in D.C. to mark the occasion. Me? I skipped the trip. Instead, I stayed home to watch the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft return to Earth. My classmates and I had different values. And in the years since, I’ve watched as some of the sub-rosa values of Earth Day have spread to pollute our culture.

save-the-planet-kill-yourselfEarth Day as soft indoctrination

To get the obvious out of the way, it is valid to be concerned about the measurable adverse effects on human health of raw sewage, or toxic waste dumped into rivers, or poisonous factory fumes pumped out to choking lungs. But that concern has metastasized into a cultural hypochondria, a fear that everything created by humans is dangerous and, worse, is dangerous to an abstraction called “the environment” rather than to humans. What happened? For four and a half decades Earth Day has spread a form of soft indoctrination. Every year, school kids cut out little paper trees and leaves, visit recycling plants, watch Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, and are generally asked by teachers, “What are you doing to help the environment?” Local news reporters visit the Earth Day Greenpeace booths at the town park and interview local politicos or business folks about how they are conserving the planet.
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All value is for humans

What’s missing from this picture? Humans! Certainly the messages are mixed. Certainly there is talk about our kids living healthier lives if they are not exposed to carcinogens and the like. But the subtle shift fostered by this annual April ritual is from the material world being of value to humans to the material world being of value in and of itself.

Forests are of value to humans because we can use their trees for lumber for our houses—good for our material well-being—or walk through them to enjoy their beauty—good for our spiritual well-being. But they are not of value in and of themselves. Yet Earth Day has conditioned two generations to anthropomorphize forests, rivers, oceans, and “the environment” as entities with rights apart from us, the conscious valuers. And these two generations are now susceptible to the appeals of the environmental extremists who argue, in essence, that humans are trespassers on the planet. Thus, we see arguments for public policies that would demonstrably harm humans, especially those in less developed countries.

The value of technology and achievement

Worse, an unthinking regard for the environment blinds many to real future challenges and their only solutions. As poorer countries develop higher living standards, they will not be able to consume resources at the rate Western countries did when they were industrializing. New technologies that allow for more efficient and, as a result, less polluting ways to use resources will be essential. Technology is what created cities, skyscrapers, factories, trains, planes, cars, rockets, and most things that radical environmentalists want to curtail. Technologies are achievements of the human mind that, in turn, empower us to achieve more in our lives and in the world.

31st_centuryThis vision of the future is already grating on those who have been poisoned by the subtle extremist message of Earth Day. But the achievements in recent decades in information technology and the emerging achievements in nanotech, biotech, and artificial intelligence are causing many young people especially to shake off the destructive Earth Day ideology. These individuals understand not only that technology will help us meet true challenges to human well-being. They also appreciate that human well-being is the standard of value.

Let’s hope that in the future Earth Day is superseded by Human Achievement Day!

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

UN “Green Climate” Program Is a Slush Fund for Dictators – Article by Marian L. Tupy

UN “Green Climate” Program Is a Slush Fund for Dictators – Article by Marian L. Tupy

The New Renaissance HatMarian L. Tupy
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The fund is planned to be $450 billion by 2020

Wherever you stand on the subject of global warming, pay close attention to one under-reported aspect of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Paris Agreement. I am referring to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is a financial mechanism intended “to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.”

According to the current estimates, developed countries will be obliged to contribute up to $450 billion a year by 2020 to the GCF, which will then “redistribute” the money to developing countries allegedly suffering from the effects of global warming.

Lo and behold, Zimbabwe’s government-run daily “newspaper” The Herald reported that “Southern Africa is already counting the costs of climate change-linked catastrophes… In Zimbabwe, which has seen a succession of droughts since 2012, a fifth of the population is facing hunger… Feeding them will cost $1.5 billion or 11 percent of … the Gross Domestic Product.”

No doubt Robert Mugabe, the 91-year-old dictator who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is salivating at the prospect of some global warming cash. Beginning in 2000, Mugabe started to expropriate privately-held agricultural land. The result of what is euphemistically called “land reform” was a monumental fall in productivity and the second highest bout of hyperinflation in recorded history.

slush1Some three million of Zimbabwe’s smartest people, including tens of thousands of doctors and lawyers, have left the country. Most of those who have remained behind are subsistence farmers with very little wealth. There is, in other words, very little loot left for the government to steal.

slush2

Thankfully for the Zimbabwean dictator, there are plenty of gullible Westerners willing to believe that the frighteningly vile, comically incompetent government isn’t at the root of Zimbabwe’s food shortages, but that global warming is to blame.

Of course, this is pure nonsense. Botswana and Zimbabwe share a border and their climate and natural resources are exceptionally similar. Yet, since 2004, food production has increased by 29 percent in Botswana, while declining by 9 percent in Zimbabwe. It is not drought but government policies that make nations starve!

slush3

As befits a dictatorship, Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt places on earth. The notion that GCF funds will be will used for environmental “adaptation and mitigation” is a dangerous fantasy.

Like much foreign aid before it, most of the “green aid” money will likely end up in the pockets of some of the cruelest and most corrupt people on earth. Congress must stand firm and refuse to appropriate any money for the fund.

slush4

This post first appeared at Human Progress.

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

The War on Air Conditioning Heats Up – Is Climate Control Immoral? – Article by Sarah Skwire

The War on Air Conditioning Heats Up – Is Climate Control Immoral? – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
August 13, 2015
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It started with the Pope. In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, he singled out air conditioning as a particularly good example of wasteful habits and excessive consumption that overcome our better natures:

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.

Now, it seems to be open season on air conditioning. From a raging Facebook debate over an article that claims that air conditioning is an oppressive tool of the patriarchy to an article in the Washington Post that calls the American use of air conditioning an “addiction” and compares it unfavorably to the European willingness to sweat through the heat of summer, air conditioning is under attack. So I want to defend it.

Understand that when I defend air conditioning, I do so as something of a reluctant proponent. I grew up in the Midwest, and I have always loved sitting on the screened-in porch, rocking on the porch swing, drinking a glass of something cold. I worked in Key West during the summer after my sophomore year of college, lived in an apartment with no air conditioning, and discovered the enormous value of ceiling fans. A lazy, hot summer day can be a real pleasure.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. There were frequent nights in my childhood when it was just too hot to sleep, and the entire family would hunker down in the one air-conditioned room of the house — my father’s attic study — to cool off at night. When we moved from that house to a place that had central air, none of us complained.

And after my recent article on home canning, my friend Kathryn wrote to say,

When I was growing up in the Deep South, everybody I knew had a garden, shelled beans and peas, and canned. It could have been an Olympic event. What I remember most — besides how good the food was — is how hot it was, all those hours spent over huge pots of boiling something or other on the stove in a house with no air conditioning.

There’s a lot to be said for being able to cook in comfort and to enjoy the screened-in porch by choice rather than necessity. Making your family more comfortable is one of the great advantages of an increasingly wealthy society, after all.

So when I read that the US Department of Energy says that you can save about 11 percent on your electric bill by raising the thermostat from 72 to 77 degrees, mostly I want to invite the Department of Energy to come over to my 1929 bungalow and see if they can get any sleep in my refinished attic bedroom when the thermostat is set to 77 degrees, but the room temperature is a cozy 80-something.

And when I read Petula Dvorak arguing that air conditioning is a tool of sexism because “all these women [are freezing] who actually dress for the season — linens, sundresses, flowy silk shirts, short-sleeve tops — changing their wardrobes to fit the sweltering temperatures around them. … And then there are the men, stalwart in their business armor, manipulating their environment for their own comfort, heaven forbid they make any adjustments in what they wear,” mostly I want to ask her if she’s read the dress codes for most professional offices. In my office, women can wear sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes in the summer. Men have to wear a jacket and tie. Air conditioning isn’t sexist. Modern dress codes very well might be.

But arguments based on nostalgia or gender are mostly easily dismissed. Moral arguments, like those made by Pope Francis or by those who are concerned about the environmental and energy impact of air conditioning, are more serious and require real attention.

Is it immoral to use air conditioning?

Pope Francis certainly suggests it is. And the article in the Washington Post that compares US and European air conditioning use agrees, suggesting that the United States prefers the short-term benefits of air conditioning over the long-term dangers of potential global warming — and that our air conditioning use “will make it harder for the US to ask other countries to continue to abstain from using it to save energy.” We are meant to be deeply concerned about the global environmental impact as countries like India, Indonesia, and Brazil become wealthy enough to afford widespread air conditioning. We are meant to set a good example.

But two months before the Washington Post worried that the United States has made it difficult to persuade India not to use air conditioning, 2,500 Indians died in one of the worst heat waves in the country’s history. This June, 780 people died in a four-day heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan. And in 2003, a heat wave that spanned Europe killed 70,000. Meanwhile, in the United States, heat causes an average of only 618 deaths per year, and the more than 5,000 North American deaths in the un-air-conditioned days of 1936 remain a grim outlier.

Air conditioning is not immoral. Possessing a technology that can prevent mortality numbers like these and not using it? That’s immoral.

Air conditioning is, for most of us, a small summertime luxury. For others, it is a life-saving necessity. I am sure that it has environmental effects. Benefits always have costs, and there’s no such thing as a free climate-controlled lunch. But rather than addressing those costs by trying to limit the use of air conditioning and by insisting that developing nations not use the technologies that rocketed the developed world to success, perhaps we should be focusing on innovating new kinds of air conditioning that can keep us cool at a lesser cost.

I bet the kids who will invent that technology have already been born. I pray that they do not die in a heat wave before they can share it with us.

Sarah Skwire is a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Unsustainable: Little Ways Environmentalists Waste the Ultimate Resource – Article by Timothy D. Terrell

Unsustainable: Little Ways Environmentalists Waste the Ultimate Resource – Article by Timothy D. Terrell

The New Renaissance HatTimothy D. Terrell
June 23, 2015
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The memo told me to get rid of my printer — or the college would confiscate it.

The sustainability director — let’s call him Kermit — is an enthusiastic and otherwise likable fellow whose office is next door to mine. Kermit had decided it would be better if the centralized network printers in each department were used for all print jobs. He believed that the environment was going to benefit from this printer impoundment.

Some sustainability advocates object to printers because little plastic ink cartridges sometimes wind up in landfills — but I saw no effort at the college to promote cartridge recycling; the sustainability policy had skipped persuasion and gone straight to confiscation.

Certainly the IT people didn’t want to maintain the wide variety of desktop printers or supply them with cartridges — but the printer on my desk was not college-supplied or maintained, and I provided all my own cartridges. Personal printers were now verboten. Period. The driver behind the policy, apparently, was the rectangular transformer box plugged into the wall, which consumed a trickle of a few watts of electricity 24/7.

A typical household inkjet printer draws about 12 watts when printing, and when it’s not, it draws about 5 watts. At 5 watts per hour, then, with a few minutes a week burning 12 watts, my lightly used inkjet would use around 46 kWh a year, which at the commercial average rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour translates to an annual cost of $5.06. There may be side effects, or externalities, to use a term from economics. A 2011 study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that renewable energy advocates often cite estimates that the side effects of coal-produced electricity cost about 18 cents per kWh, so assuming that all the electricity saved would have been produced by burning coal (nationwide, it’s actually less than 40 percent), that brings the total annual cost to $13.34.

Kermit must have calculated that confiscating printers would collectively generate several hundred dollars a year of savings for the college — and allow the college to put another line on its sustainability brag sheet.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with trying to save electricity. But Kermit had forgotten the value of an important natural resource: human time.

Time is a valuable resource: labor costs are a large chunk of most businesses’ costs. The college basically wanted to save electricity by wasting my time — and everyone else’s.

Here’s how that works. Suppose I want to print out a recommendation letter and envelope on college letterhead. Using the network printer involves the following steps:

  1. Walk down hall with letterhead and insert letterhead in single-feed tray.
  2. Return to office.
  3. Hit Enter and walk back to printer.
  4. Discover that page was oriented the wrong way and printed upside down.
  5. Return to office.
  6. Walk back to printer with new letterhead page.
  7. Return to office.
  8. Hit Enter and walk back to printer.
  9. Discover that someone else had sent a job to the printer while I was in transit and printed his test on my letterhead.
  10. Return to office.
  11. Walk back to printer with new letterhead page.
  12. Wait for other guy’s print job to finish.
  13. Insert letterhead, properly oriented.
  14. Run back to office to reduce chances of letterhead being turned into another test.
  15. Hit Enter and walk back to printer.
  16. Pick up successfully printed letter.
  17. Walk back to office, quietly weeping at the thought of repeating the process to print the envelope.

This “savings” turns into more than 12 trips to and from the communal printer, plus any time spent waiting for another print job. The environmentalist may bemoan the two wasted sheets of paper, but he would quickly remember that there’s a recycling bin beside the printer. The more significant cost of this little fiasco is human time.

Let’s suppose that’s a total of six minutes. Of course, I’ve learned the right way to orient paper and envelopes after a mistake or two, and printer congestion is rarely a problem. And I never did higher-volume print jobs, such as tests for classes, on my own inkjet anyway, so the lost time in trotting back and forth would apply mainly to one- or two-sheet print jobs, envelopes, and scanning. Suppose the confiscation of my inkjet means, conservatively, five additional minutes a week during the school year. That’s about three hours a year sucked out of my life, absorbed in walking back and forth.

Suppose, again to be conservative, my time is worth what fast food restaurant workers in Seattle are getting paid right now — $15 per hour. So the university is wasting $45 of my salary to save $13.34 in utilities. Does that sound like the diligent stewardship of precious resources?

(I will assume that any health benefits from the additional walking are canceled out by the additional stress caused by sheer aggravation.)

I am pleased to say that the desktop printer kerfuffle ended with the sustainability director backing down. We were all allowed to keep our printers, and I thereby kept three hours a year to do more productive work. Kermit and I remained on good terms, though he never took me up on my offer to provide an economist’s voice on the sustainability committee.

But we must make the most of small victories, for college and university sustainability proponents march on undeterred. If anything, the boldness and scale (and the waste) of campus initiatives has only increased. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) recently released a report showing that colleges trying to reduce their environmental impact have spent huge amounts of money on sustainability programs for little to no gain.

The unintended consequences of these programs abound. And though each initiative may destroy only a small amount of human time, the collective impact of these microregulations is a death by a thousand cuts.

Many college cafeterias are now “trayless,” in the hopes of reducing dish use and wasted food. But students must manage unwieldy loads of dishes, leading to inevitable spills, or make multiple trips (and student time is valuable, too). One study mentioned in the NAS report found that “students without trays tend to run out of hands and to skip extra dishes — usually healthy dishes such as salads — in order to better carry their entrée and dessert. This leads to students consuming relatively fewer greens and more sweets.”

A college’s “carbon footprint” has also become the object of campus policy. Middlebury College, for example, pledged in 2006 that it would be “carbon neutral” by 2016. So it has spent almost $5 million a year (over $2,000 per student) on things like a biomass energy plant, organic food for the dining hall, and staff and faculty tasked with improving sustainability. All of this has cost the college about $543 per ton of CO2 reduction. So even if one accepts the $39 per ton figure the Obama administration has stated as the value of reducing carbon dioxide emissions (and I, for one, am skeptical), Middlebury has greatly overpaid.

We can all appreciate the desire to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. But this doesn’t mean that every environmental sustainability initiative makes sense. Overpaying to reduce CO2 emissions, as with Middlebury, means that the product of hours of our work is needlessly consumed, and we have fewer resources for other valuable pursuits.

Sustainability advocates need to remember that resources include more than electricity, water, plastic, paper, and the like. Humans have value, too, here and now. Chipping away at our lives with little directives to expend several hours saving a bit of electricity, water, or some other resource, is to ignore the value of human life and to waste what Julian Simon called “the ultimate resource.”

Timothy Terrell is associate professor of economics at Wofford College in South Carolina.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Eden is an Illusion (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Eden is an Illusion (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published April 2, 2009
as Part of Issue CXCI of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 23, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CXCI of The Rational Argumentator on April 2, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 23, 2014
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Many Western and non-Western cultures alike are contaminated by a highly dangerous idea with destructive consequences – the idea of man’s “fall” from some “higher” state – an Eden, if you will. Different groups holding this idea give it different incarnations – but the implications are the same. The myth of the Fall is detrimental to human ambition, flourishing, and improvement; it stifles attempts to find creative solutions to the dreadful problems that have been plaguing humankind since its very beginnings. But beyond being destructive, the Eden myth is simply false. There never was a “better” state from which human beings have “descended.” We shall explore why the Fall is an illusion that ought to be abandoned.

The myth of the Fall is held by often mutually antagonistic groups, all of which pose considerable obstacles to the progress and flourishing of many individuals. On the one hand, fundamentalist religious conservatives see man as literally fallen from the Garden of Eden, where God had designed for him a “perfect” existence. I fail, of course, to see anything perfect about an existence where man had no technology, no love of learning, and no knowledge of good and evil. But this very existence is also embraced by people who claim to be on the opposite side of the political spectrum – radical left-wing environmentalists, who have their own vision of Eden.

Like the Eden of the religious conservatives, the Eden of the environmentalists involves no technology and no active, systematic progress of human knowledge and capacity. Rather, man’s “unity” with “Nature” is celebrated in this vision. According to the environmentalists, there was once a time – probably the pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherer days – when man existed in “harmony” with this strange entity called Nature, which seems to encompass everything other than man. Allegedly, humans did not disturb the “balance” of ecosystems and took good care of the Earth in those days – whatever that means. Alas, there was never such a balance to begin with. We shall see that both the religious and environmentalist visions of Eden are plainly wrong.

Life for early man – far from being blissful or even remotely enjoyable – was, in Thomas Hobbes’s words, “nasty, brutish, and short.” Life expectancy in the Paleolithic period was anywhere from the mid-teens to the mid-twenties. Food was continually in short supply, as there was no guarantee of plentiful game to hunt or berries to forage. And if a plentiful catch did occur, there were scant safeguards to prevent the food from spoiling. Predators and disease were rampant; sanitation and health care were non-existent. Without a scientific method, a person with even the best of intentions often ended up hurting one’s fellow human beings while intending to help them.

Every conceivable vice, social problem, weakness, and fallibility of human beings today has always existed throughout human history; the only difference is the magnitude of such problems, which were most certainly greater in prior eras. Without the benefits of technology, education, and the relative safety and comfort of our times, people were far more prone to engage in violent conflicts over resources and to allow emotional clashes to escalate into bloodshed. Rape, slavery, female subjugation, ceaseless wars, adultery, substance abuse, murder, theft, and other detestable conduct were more common then than now – as there were fewer alternatives to such conduct, and fewer disincentives from it. Every problem facing mankind has always existed in some form – due to hostile natural forces or the irrationality and stupidity of many humans. But the solutions to many of these problems could only come in the form of technological and societal progress – a departure from the non-Eden of the past.

The Eden myth in all of its incarnations originates from the rather strange notion that there is something written in the cosmic laws of nature that the default state of human beings is to be happy, comfortable, justly treated, and in “harmony” with their surroundings. There is no natural law which guarantees this or even tends toward it. The term “comfort” did not even acquire its present usage until the 17th century, and what the ancients meant by “happiness” differs dramatically from prevailing modern views. To suggest that human beings are guaranteed anything good by God, Nature, or what have you, has no evidential support; indeed, all the evidence speaks to the contrary. Humans are faced with millions of perils, injustices, and vulnerabilities. Survival is far from guaranteed, and people of merit and virtue rarely get the rewards they deserve. When natural disasters, political oppression, and disease strike, they rarely discriminate between the good and the evil. There is no natural justice, goodness, or equilibrium, and 99.9% of all species ever existing are now extinct. There is no special protection given to humans from the forces that wiped out many of their distant relatives.

The Eden myth suggests that there is natural guarantee of happiness and justice given to humans, but humans have chosen to stray from the origins of that guarantee – God, Nature, or an analogous reified entity. Therefore, humans suffer – but not because suffering is the default state, but rather because humans did something wrong in rejecting the bliss of the default state. The Eden myth might state that humans deserve lifelong suffering for the sins of Adam and Eve or their ancestors or post-Renaissance Western civilization – but it is in some ways much less grim than reality. The appeal of the Eden myth to many people is that it suggests the existence of an underlying balance and goodness about the world as such – implying that somehow, beneath all that nastiness, everything is fundamentally all right. It is not.

There is nothing to suggest any guarantees given human beings with regard to anything pertaining to their survival, happiness, or fulfillment. There is no cosmic justice and no cosmic “balance.” Rather, whatever justice people wish to obtain, they must create the conditions for. Human technologies, social systems, and esthetic and intellectual accomplishments erect a fortress of civilization which enables us to somewhat resist the onslaught of the elements. The fortress is currently quite shabbily built – with numerous gaping holes and inadequate structural support. Moreover, it is far from complete; indeed, even its foundations have not yet been completely laid. Humanity is still in a state of general barbarism – unable to even figure out ways to prevent individual humans from dying and to prevent human social and political systems from degenerating into either tyranny or chaos. But for all of our massive problems, our ancestors had it worse.

If we are to overcome the extremely genuine and massive threats to our existence coming from virtually all directions, it is essential not to take comfort in the demotivating illusions of a cosmic balance. The longing for a fictitious past bliss leads many to stifle the ambitions of some humans to create a better future. The advocates of the Eden myth seek to thwart the advocates of technological and societal progress – seeing them as taking humankind even further away from its original bliss. But only progress can help us avoid the gruesome destruction and oblivion that are currently in store for every single living individual, unless human ingenuity can enable us to pursue a better path – one which we must follow to push back the hostile aspects of nature and humankind alike and create a safer, happier, more prosperous existence.

Read more articles in Issue CXCI of The Rational Argumentator.

Radical Life Extension Won’t Cause Resource Shortages – Article by Reason

Radical Life Extension Won’t Cause Resource Shortages – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
October 6, 2013
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That overpopulation exists at all is one of the most prevalent delusions in the modern world: thanks to the environmentalist movement, a cause that has ascended near to the status of civic religion, the average fellow in the street thinks that there are too many people alive today, that resources are stretched to breaking point, that the future is one of Malthusian decline, and that horrible poverty in the third world is caused by the existence of too many people. All of these points are flat-out wrong. Humanity is wealthier and has greater access to resources today than at any time in history, the variety and amounts of available resources are growing at an accelerating pace due to technological progress, the earth could support many times more people than are alive today, and where there is poverty it exists due to terrible, predatory governance and the inhumanity of man – it exists due to waste and aggression amidst the potential for plenty.

Even this pro-longevity piece by George Dvorsky subscribes, as many do, to the false idea that somehow we are consuming too many resources and will run out. This is silly: resources are infinite, because through technological progress we constantly develop new ones. People live in an age of change, with each new decade clearly different from the last, and yet live under the assumption that everything will remain the same going forward. Being worried about running out of anything that we use today is like being worried about running out of candle wax in 1810, or running out of room for horse breeding operations in 1840, or running out of food in 1940. All false concerns, and all false for exactly the same reasons: we are not static consumers of resources, we are net producers of resources.

Quote:

Make no mistake, it’ll take us a long, long time to get there, but we’ll eventually find a way to halt the aging process. Owing to advanced medical, regenerative, and cybernetic technologies, future humans will enter into a state of “negligible senescence,” a condition marked by the cessation of aging and the onset of everlasting youth. It sounds utopian, but as biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey has repeatedly noted, it’s simply an engineering problem – one that’s not intractable.

I’ve been debating this issue for the better part of a decade, and I’ve heard virtually every argument there is to be said both in favor of and in condemnation of the possibility. I’m not going to go over all of them here. But without a doubt the single most prominent argument set against radical life extension is the issue of overpopulation and environmental sustainability.

As a final note, there’s a certain inevitability to radical life extension. It’s the logical conclusion to the medical sciences. So rather than futilely argue against it, we should come up with constructive solutions to ensure that it unfolds in the most non-disruptive way possible.

Link: http://io9.com/no-extreme-human-longevity-won-t-destroy-the-planet-1440148751

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.  

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license.  It was originally published on FightAging.org.

My Views on “Eden against the Colossus” – Ten Years Later – Article by G. Stolyarov II

My Views on “Eden against the Colossus” – Ten Years Later – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 8, 2013
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Not long after the release of the Second Edition of my 2003-2004 science-fiction mystery novel Eden against the Colossus, I was asked whether any of the views I expressed in the novel had changed since then, and, if so, to what extent.

I still strongly adhere to most of the fundamental philosophical principles expressed in Eden against the Colossus: the existence of an objective reality, the necessity for reason and rigorous inquiry in discovering it, the supreme value of the individual, the virtue of enlightened self-interest, and the immense benefits of technological progress for improving, elevating, and extending the human condition.

In the introduction to the Second Edition I discussed how, in retrospect, the future society described in Eden against the Colossus seems like a pessimistic scenario of how far humanity would progress technologically during the 750 years since the writing of the novel (for instance, in the lack of autonomous artificial intelligence or indefinite life extension – through there are many advanced robots and the average lifespan has increased by perhaps a factor of three in the world initially presented in the novel). This is a world very much characterized by a stark good-versus-evil conflict – that of the individualists/technoprogressives versus the Malthusians/Neo-Luddites. In the novel I occasionally use the term “environmentalists” to describe the Malthusians/Neo-Luddites; today, I would make a subtler distinction between those environmentalists who favor free-market and/or technological solutions to the problems they perceive, and those who see the only solutions as a “return to Nature” and a curtailment of human population. My quarrel is, and has fundamentally always been, only with those environmentalists who seek to reject or limit technological progress – particularly those who would use force to impose their preferences on others. Today I would be more careful to describe my views as anti-Luddite, rather than anti-environmentalist, in order to recognize as possible allies those environmentalists who would embrace technology with incidental benefits such as the reduction of pollution or the more efficient use of resources.

Were I writing the novel today, the society which results as the outcome of the individualist/technoprogressive vision would look quite different as well. The Intergalactic Protectorate is a libertarian system, but a highly centralized one nonetheless. Through its storyline though not through its explicit philosophical ideas, Eden against the Colossus illustrates the vulnerabilities of such a system and the ease of turning the machinery of the Protectorate against the very ideals it is supposed to protect. This is true, I now realize, of any large, centralized institution – public or private, controlled by virtuous people, or by mediocrities or crooks. As an example of this, one needs only to consider how the vast, largely voluntary centralization of information on the Internet – during the age of dominant providers of social-networking, search, and content-hosting services – has enabled sweeping surveillance of virtually all Americans by the National Security Agency through “backdoors” into the systems of the dominant Internet companies. No one person – and no one institution – can be the sole effective guardian of liberty. On the other hand, a society filled with political experiments, as well as experiments in decentralized technologies applied to every area of life, would be much more robust against usurpations of power and incursions against individual rights. Undertakings such as seasteading, a decentralized Meshnet, and Bitcoin have intrigued me in recent years as ways to empower individuals by reducing their dependence on large institutions and decreasing the number of ways by which power asymmetry enables those with ill intentions to get away with inconveniencing or outright oppressing innocent people.

A truly libertarian future will not resemble today’s corporate America on an intergalactic scale, only with considerably less regulation and a more stringently written Constitution enforced by a fourth branch of government possessing negative power only – essentially, the society portrayed in Eden against the Colossus. If humanity is to achieve an intergalactic presence, it will likely be in the form of hundreds of thousands of diverse and autonomous networks of people, largely possessing fluid social and political structures. The balance of power in such a world would greatly favor individuals who are hyperempowered by technology. Furthermore, if technology is to have the ability to radically enhance human intelligence and reasoning, then many of the philosophical disputes that have recurred throughout history may, in future eras, be settled by a more rigorous and nuanced framing of the ideas under consideration. The intellectual conflicts of the future are not likely to be of the hitherto-encountered “capitalist versus socialist” or “technoprogressive versus environmentalist” variety – since the evolution of technology and culture, as well as the shifting dynamics of human societies, will raise new issues of focus which will lead to interesting and unanticipated alignments of persons of various perspectives. It would be entirely possible for some issues to unite erstwhile opponents – as principled libertarians and principled socialists today both detest crony corporatism, or as technoprogressives and some technology-friendly environmentalists today support nuclear power and organisms bioengineered to clean up pollution.

With regard to the personal lives of the characters of Eden against the Colossus, my view today no longer necessitates a glorification of ceaseless work, though productivity remains important to me without a doubt. The enjoyment of the fruits of productive work – and the ability to increase the proportion of one’s time spent in that enjoyment without diminishing one’s productivity – are among the outcomes made possible by technological progress. Such outcomes are insufficiently illustrated in Eden against the Colossus. Moreover, were I to write the novel today, I would have more greatly focused on the ability of a technological society to provide individuals with the opportunity to balance work, leisure, relationships, and a broad awareness of numerous areas of existence.

Along with all of these qualifying statements, however, I nonetheless emphasize my view that the fundamental essence of the conflict depicted in Eden against the Colossus is still a valid and vital subject for contemplation and for consideration of its relevance to our lives. As long as humankind continues to exist in anything resembling its present form, two fundamental motivations – the desire for improvement of the human condition and the desire for restrictive control that would suppress efforts to alter the status quo – will continue to be at odds, in whatever unforeseeable future embodiments they might come to possess. Perhaps sufficient technological progress will shift the balance of human biology, environment, and incentives further away from the command-and-control motive and closer toward the pure motives of amelioration and progress. One can certainly hope.

Mr. Stolyarov Quoted in Heartlander Magazine Article on Hawaii’s Plastic-Bag Ban

Mr. Stolyarov Quoted in Heartlander Magazine Article on Hawaii’s Plastic-Bag Ban

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 4, 2012
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I have again been quoted in Heartlander Magazine, this time in “Aloha! Leave Your Plastic Grocery Bags at Home” by Kenneth Artz. I encourage you to read my comments there. Here are some of my further thoughts on this subject.

The recent banning of plastic bags in Los Angeles and Hawaii is a gross infringement on individual rights and free enterprise. Entirely harmless and consensual exchanges between stores and their customers are being prohibited, and in Los Angeles customers are being forced by the local government to pay for paper bags that stores would have preferred to give for free. This is a frightening infringement on consumer sovereignty, as it makes artificially scarce those goods which businesses would have preferred to make abundant and accessible for consumers’ benefit.

Freely available plastic and paper bags offer a superb convenience to consumers who may be making unplanned shopping trips – perhaps as a result of emergency needs.  Furthermore, store-provided bags are helpful even to consumers who have brought their own bags – just in case those consumers purchase more items than would fit into the bags they brought. The governments in Hawaii and Los Angeles are forcing such consumers to pay an extra fee because of their unforeseen, and sometimes very personal, needs. The ban and fee are hardest on the least economically advantaged consumers, for whom every penny counts. The inconvenience of the ban and the cumulative cost of the paper-bag fees can make the difference between financial sustainability and severe strain on personal and family budgets.

As my comments in the article make clear, the ban is also repugnant from the standpoint of morality and limited government. The only morally praiseworthy acts of environmental responsibility are those initiated and voluntarily sustained by private individuals and businesses.

This tax on convenience is an unacceptable exercise of arbitrary power. If a government can arrogate to itself the power to prevent mutually beneficial arrangements such as the free availability of plastic and paper bags – then what can it not do? What kinds of petty micromanagement are off limits to cities and counties? What room is left for creativity and innovation among individuals and businesses if the smallest things in life are subject to crippling prohibitions and controls?

Doing a Happy Jig Over the Sand Dune Lizard Decision – Article by Marita Noon

Doing a Happy Jig Over the Sand Dune Lizard Decision – Article by Marita Noon

The New Renaissance Hat
Marita Noon
June 19, 2012
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The American public has awakened and is acutely aware of the damage environmentally driven policy is doing to America’s citizens and economy. The decision not to add the sand dune lizard to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act, announced Wednesday by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), was precipitated by public involvement as the citizens of Texas and New Mexico wrote the FWS, showed up at public rallies, and spoke up at official hearings in opposition to the listing. The listing of the sand dune lizard had the potential annual cost of more than $35 billion to the American economy due to lost oil production alone.

Most endangered species listings are proposed and then listed with little fanfare. The public is often totally unaware the listing is possible and the negative economic consequences on the local and national economy are not considered. But this time it was different. Armed with the history of the devastating impacts an endangered species listing can have on communities and economies—such as the spotted owl and the delta smelt—New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce drew a line in the sand and stood up for the citizens who would be impacted most by the proposed listing of the sand dune lizard. Congressman Pearce’s efforts were augmented by Texas Congressman Mike Conaway and Texas Senator John Cornyn—each deserves plaudits from the people.

In December of 2010, the FWS announced the nomination of the sand dune lizard for listing as an endangered species—a move that was prompted by a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance.

Ben Shepperd, of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, explains it this way: “The Endangered Species Act in current form is being exploited by activist groups that generate income for themselves while hiding behind a pretense of protecting the environment. Suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a cottage industry for them. Regardless of the decision rendered in their manifold lawsuits, the groups receive legal fees—our taxpayer dollars—from the federal government.”

Throughout 2011, people came together. Community meetings were held and the stakeholders were engaged—even enraged. Large public rallies with hundreds in attendance took place in Roswell and Artesia, NM, and Midland, TX. News crews gave the issue national attention. Independent scientists gathered to examine the science behind the listing and found it full of flaws, assumptions, and erroneous conclusions—issuing a report, which was given to FWS.

In December 2011, when the Endangered Species Act required a “list,” “decline to list,” or “delay” decision, the FWS announced that it was exercising the “delay” option—which gave the agency six more months to study the newly presented evidence.

Concerned citizens and the oil and gas industry have been anxiously awaiting the decision.

Congressman Pearce called the decision a “huge victory for the people who have so tirelessly fought to save their jobs and their way of life.”

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar praised the efforts of the oil and gas industry in working to preserve the lizard’s habitat through Candidate Conservation Agreements, saying they were “nothing short of historic.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups are claiming that the “Department of Interior sold out to big oil.”

The listing of the sand dune lizard had the potential to virtually shut down oil and gas development in the Permian Basin region of Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas—an area responsible for 20% of America’s domestic production. If the decision had come down on the side of listing the lizard, it may well have decimated the local economies and had the potential to raise gas prices nationwide due to reduced supply.

The publicity the proposed sand dune lizard listing attracted has, perhaps, gotten the attention of the Obama campaign—which may have influenced the outcome. After all, could he afford to hurt a major portion of the economy in a swing state just months before the election?

The sand dune lizard victory should be an example for concerned citizens everywhere—regardless of the issue. Wake up, show up, stand up, and speak up!

Celebrate while we can! The lesser prairie chicken and the jobs it may endanger are next. Without a looming election, we might not be so lucky. But then again, maybe the election will change everything.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great, Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy and its role in freedom and in the American way of life. Combining commentary on energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

Commonsense Wisdom from African Farmers – Article by Kelvin Kemm

Commonsense Wisdom from African Farmers – Article by Kelvin Kemm

The New Renaissance Hat
Kelvin Kemm
June 19, 2012
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If you want to learn what farmers think (and need), talk to African farmers – not to bureaucrats, environmental activists or politicos at the Rio+20 United Nations summit in Rio de Janeiro. You’ll get very different, far more honest and thoughtful perspectives.

The recent (May 24) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network conference in Pretoria, South Africa brought together delegates from agricultural communities in many African countries. FANRPAN’s primary objective is to improve food security in Africa, by ensuring that small-scale farmers can become more productive. Their obvious enthusiasm and commonsense views were heartening.

FANRPAN chair Sindiso Ngwenya of Zambia gave an incisive presentation, pointing out that agriculture is the key to reducing poverty and ensuring food security in Africa. “We call upon the world to assist us,” he said, “not by treating us as beggars, but by treating us as equals.”

Ngwenya criticised many First World attempts to use climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development arguments to prevent African agriculture from advancing. “If you are using implements that were there before Christ, how much chance do you have?” he wanted to know.

And why would anyone think these UN-EU-US issues are important to African farmers and families who are trying to feed their families and neighbors, and improve their living standards by exporting their products?

Africa does not need foreign aid in the form of handouts, Ngwenya emphasized. African farmers need modern technology and reliable, affordable electricity. They need the world to buy African produce. Instead, far too often, European and other First World countries impose rules or block African exports, using a multitude of excuses that can no longer be tolerated.

FANRPAN has decided to go “Africa-wide,” Ngwenya announced. Africa is huge –larger than the United States, China, India and Europe combined. And yet 60% of its arable land is not used at all. On the arable land that is used in most African countries, crop yields are typically a quarter of the norm in South Africa. What’s needed, he said, are modern farming methods, seeds, fertilizers and equipment –at the level of every individual farmer.

Referring to the 2011 COP-17 world environment congress in Durban, South Africa, Ngwenya pointed out that the FANRPAN slogan is “No agriculture, no deal.” However, agriculture, and particularly the advancement of rural African agriculture, was not included in past COP objectives. Many delegates criticised this, saying it reflected the First World’s hope that Africa and African agriculture will remain primitive and underdeveloped, so that rich countries can praise Africans for being “sustainable” and protecting the planet.

Africans are being told by First World activists, politicians and pressure groups to “stay in tune with nature,” delegates noted – when this attitude really reflects a well-fed First World’s maneuver to retard African agricultural improvements.

When it came to the eternal climate change saga, FRANRPAN delegates emphasized “climate-smart agriculture” and noted that Africa has always experienced dramatic weather and climate variations. What’s needed now, they stresse, is sensible, fact-based science, to predict and adapt to local and regional climate cycles and variations.

Equally impressive was learning that a group of small-scale farmers from Burkino Faso had paid their own way to attend a meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, nearly 3,000 miles (4,500 kilometers) away, to present a petition calling for the development of evidence-based policies, to replace what to now have been emotional, harmful and oppressive policies, rules and treaties.

The delegates said they were tired of the First World telling them what to do, based on First World interests and perceptions. They understand all too well that calls for “sustainable development,” “biodiversity” and climate change “prevention” really mean demands for policies and practices that ensure sustained poverty and malnutrition.

FRANRPAN CEO Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda emphasized that the real work is done on the ground, at the level of individual countries – and “policy comes from people.” Individual countries must come to their own conclusions about what works for them, and countries must align their policies to ensure food security for their people, she said. Modern methods and technologies are also required, to enhance intra-Africa food trade and enable countries to export what they are good at producing.

Her enthusiasm was praised by a farmer who spoke from the floor, with a strong French accent. “There’s a lack of resources for small farmers to come here,” he said, even for important meetings like this, but he was glad he had spent the time and money to be there. Certainly, those that did attend exhibited enough excitement and enthusiasm for the millions who could not join them.

Chairman Ngwenya wrapped up the proceedings by criticising the apparently intentional side-stepping of agricultural issues during COP-17. The First World must stop impeding African farmers and end “the paralysis by analysis,” he said. Absolutely right.

There is far too much First World smoke and mirrors, telling Africans they are saving the planet – when the real intention is to stop them from acquiring modern technology and electricity that would allow them to surge to middle class or even rich country status.

This FANRPAN conference serves notice to the United Nations Environment Programme, Rio+20 Sustainable Development Summit, Europe, United States and other obstructionists that Africa has caught on to what they are doing – and is no longer willing to play their game.

That’s good news for every African, Asian, Latin American and other poor family that wants to eat better, live better and have the freedom to pursue their dreams.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and business strategy consultant in Pretoria, South Africa. He is a member of the International Board of Advisors of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), based in Washington, DC (www.CFACT.org). Dr. Kemm received the prestigious Lifetime Achievers Award of the National Science and Technology Forum of South Africa.