Why do some care, and some do not?

Tree.  commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Tree#/media/File:GemeineFichte.jpg; Public Domain.

A retweet over at Cererean’s feed had this:

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit” Boomers cut all the trees down, and then said “I’m gonna die soon anyway, so what do I care? Go f*** yourself” Don’t be like boomers. Plant trees. Ensure your kids have it better than u did.

Of course, this was a bit generalized; some boomers do care, and have cared (and we’ve got a lot more trees in the US, so someone must have been planting trees!).  The bigger question is why do some people care, and some do not?  Some people who have kids are in the camp of “I’ve got mine, so I’m not worried,” and some people who don’t have kids are the very folks who plant lots of trees (literally, or figuratively).

What makes people take one path or another?  And even more amazingly – admit that they don’t care about the future or future generations?  How do you get people to care about future generations?

 

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The fourth E

Another E?

Chris Martenson’s Crash Course gives a great summary of our troubled future.  In it, he breaks things down to Economy, Environment, and Energy.  The YouTube version is here.   All are interrelated, and all point to a difficult future.

This is relatively straightforward stuff, but there’s a fourth E that might be added, and that’s Existential.  Last weeks topic on UFOs is the part of the existential strangeness that might accompany (or upset) the applecart of our world, and as odd as may seem to some, let’s not count it out.  The fourth E might also encompass other existential events, such as the discovery of an alien radio transmission, or a worldwide change in outlook by humanity as a whole, or another bunch of ‘black swan’ events that might make any of the other E’s seem trivial.  I’ll admit, these seem to be long shots, but that’s why are lumped in with the big E of existential issues.

Talking about these existential issues (like NDEs, which point to a continuity of consciousness after death) may seem silly, as the other three E’s are far more concrete.  The other E’s have rational mainstream science behind them (well, perhaps except for the Economy, which is the provenance of economists who don’t believe in limits on a finite world). In spite of things like wars, and various glitches in our societies, we really haven’t had a big ‘E’ event that says ‘all bets are off’, and ‘now things are different’.  Even the attacks on September 11, as horrible as they were, didn’t fundamentally change the worldview of many, nor did they change things for humanity so radically.

And yes, as always, all of this could be wrong.

Questions:

  • What other things besides energy, economy, and environment would you add to Chris’s Crash Course?   If not an ‘E’ for existential, what other things are on the radar that seem to be important?  An ‘E’ for epidemics (for which we are surely overdue)?  Or is this just a side effect of economy/environment?  How about an ‘E’ for Earth changes (like the shifting of poles, or series of possible ‘big bad events’, such as tsunamis, massive solar flares, and such, noted previously?)
  • Should we file this ‘E’ as a little ‘e’, since it may appear more tenuous?
  • What would make this proposed little ‘e’ become capitalized?
  • What would you consider ‘radical’ change?  As the old saying goes, a recession is when your neighbor loses their job; a depression is when you lose yours.  Are there some folks who are so well insulated that they might never experience an existential crisis (even though we all will meet one on our deathbed)?

 

The tickle of alien space bats

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ufibeamup2.png; Public Domain

The “Ask Me Anything” section of Reddit has a wide range of folks who have notoriety in a diverse range of fields, and as the name says – you can ask anything of the person of interest.

A few days ago, Paul Hellyer, a former Canadian cabinet minister of Defense and Transport did an ‘AMA‘, and naturally, folks asked him about the UFO issue.  For those of you late to the party, in the UFO world, Mr. Hellyer is famous for being one of the highest members of any government to admit to the UFO phenomenon as being something real, and something involving extraterrestrials.   The Canadians seem to have been quite blunt in this matter (see documents on Project Magnet). In the AMA session, he states:

Governments, especially the US government, have been working with several species for decades and knows an incredible amount about them. They have spent billions denying the existence of UFOs, ETs and their incredible characteristics.

Dang.  It is stuff like that might be called the ‘tickle of alien space bats‘ – a slight suggestion that there might be something very strange going on behind the scenes of the ‘normal world’, that would have vast implications for humans, humanity, and the environment.  This is something that seems to be gathering steam; a recent Fox News piece mentions that an American DoD official has been saying something similar, and revelations by US Navy pilots are starting to get serious notice (in the NY Times as well), rather than becoming career ending.

This doesn’t mean humanity and its odd way of doing things is off the hook.  If you were a representative of an advanced civilization, would you “bail out humanity”, without first putting it through some sort of rehab program?  Most of us will help friends who are in a bind, but if a friend continually trashes their personal life (and those around them), how willing are you to throw ‘good resources after bad’ if they continue to behave in a self-destructive way?  No matter how you slice it, the way we are living probably isn’t long for this world.

Questions:

  • Alien space bats – nuts, or is there something to this?  Someone in my world, when asked about the reality of UFOs, simply and bluntly said, “All those people are crazy,” without wanting to listen to any bit of evidence, even when put forward by folks like Hellyer or even Mercury or Apollo astronauts.
  • Is there a middle path on the UFO issue?  Between “nothing at all/nothing to see here” and “extraterrestrials”, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room.   If these things are made by humans, there’s a lot of hidden stuff out there that is just as maddening.
  • One wonders – if an advanced civilization was to help us out, what would they ask us to give up?  Nuclear weapons? Fast food Capitalism? Nationalism? Religion?  Most of the scenarios where advanced civilizations meet less technical ones don’t end well for the less technical ones.

 

Grifting and Civility

The shell game of politics… (Own work, Public Domain)

With a generally centrist worldview, you can sometimes see a bit more of the hypocrisy in politics, and (of course!) wonder why folks can’t see how folks in their respective camps have seemingly lost their minds.   It was a pleasant surprise then, when someone in my world (a bit more to the right of my sensibilities) sent a few notes over on grifting from both the right and the left:

The best part about these articles, is that the folks doing the criticism were from their own sides.  When that happens, you know that some people have not abandoned their senses, and are ready to call out stupidity and greed, even when it emanates from their own part of the political spectrum.   Grifting is a parasitic behavior that does not help anyone except the grifter.  When it is political grifting, it also gives ample fuel to your opponents.  The real opportunistic grifters, when cornered, can also call their critics (depending on their location on the political spectrum) racist, inhumane, socialist, unpatriotic, evil, and/or depraved, ramping up the rhetoric.

In reading the article on grifting from the right, a piece appeared on civility.  As grifting (and inciting one’s base) has increased, civility has declined.   The article does a good job of showing how bad things are, and mentions a new book by Peter Wehner, The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic after Trump, which might give us a way out of this mess we are in. From the list of people mentioned who have read the book and put their name forward, giving it their blessings (from many parts of the political spectrum, right and left; from the cabinets of Bush and Obama, Democrats and Republicans), it seems like he might be on to something.

 

 

 

Peak Rubber And Mars Colonies

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hevea_brasiliensis#/media/File:Hevea_brasiliensis_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-071.jpg, Public Domain

On a television series This Giant Beast That is the Global Economy, an episode was aired on the rubber plant.  If you thought oil was an issue for the global economy, this video tidbit will open your eyes even wider.   It seems that the rubber tree, hevea brasiliensis, was wiped out in Brasil due to a rapidly spreading fungal infection.  As a result, only about tiny fraction of rubber in the world comes from that region of the world any more.  Most of it comes from southeast Asia now, but is still susceptible to the same infection.

As noted in Wikipedia:

The majority of the rubber trees in Southeast Asia are clones of varieties highly susceptible to the South American leaf blight—Microcyclus ulei. For these reasons, environmental historian Charles C. Mann, in his 2011 book, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, predicted that the Southeast Asian rubber plantations will be ravaged by the blight in the not-too-distant future, thus creating a potential calamity for international industry.

Calamity is a bit of an understatement. Although there are a few dandelion to rubber projects, if this blight were to hit the southeast Asian plantations/farms that have rubber trees, things might get dicey in modern society.  Removing that one simple element, rubber, can cause a whole bunch of knock on effects that might bring modern conveniences and technologies to their knees.  Yes, it is possible to make synthetic rubbers or analogues, but it takes a bit of effort, and the substitutes aren’t always ideal.

Taking this in mind, it is always laughable/sad to see the ideas of Moon and Mars colonies bandied about.  Although it might be able to put ten, one hundred, or even a thousand people on the Moon or Mars in the next twenty years, unless you’ve got something like very cheap (think antigravity) transport, those colonies will be dependent on Earth for a vary long time, until they can manufacture everything that could be needed forever, in a sustainable way.  If you don’t have basic elements like rubber, you don’t have a modern society, and you certainly don’t have a workable and self-sustaining off-world colony.   Ultrapure silicon and gases for processing semiconductors, cobalt for touch screens, trace elements for a variety of technological widgets – all are required for high-tech off-world living, and therefore, those colonies will be tied to Earth for a long time.  If these colonies are meant to be lifeboats for humanity, they won’t last very long.

Yes, it is possible that we get these colonies going in short order;  Arthur C. Clarke once had a pithy quote:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

I’m not an elderly scientist, nor am I distinguished.   I’m not even claiming it is impossible to get a colony of sorts going off world.   The point here is that yes, it may be possible to get hundreds, or even thousands of people off-world.  To do it sustainably, however, will be a real trick.

Questions:

  • Peak Oil.  Peak Rubber.  Peak (Fresh) Water.  What other elements or resources can nip any of these high-tech schemes in the bud the fastest?
  • What modern technologies are least immune to these resource limitations?
  • If you did manage to start a Moon or Mars colony, would there be a way to keep a colony going indefinitely?   What industries would you develop first in order to ensure self-sustainability?  Would you go a biological route, say, basing your civilization on plants and plant derived resources?
  • If we did start colonies on the Moon and Mars, how long do you think it would take to become self-sustaining?  What sort of population minimum would be required?  Some of these questions have been answered (based on interstellar colonization projects), and the answers aren’t too encouraging.  If anything, having a livable world solves a great deal of these problems.  Are we willing to terraform Mars, the Moon, or other solar system bodies towards this goal?

Climate Reality and Response

tilted_sc.png

The tilted scales of reality, Own Work, Public Domain

Some of the complaints and opposition to the science of climate change aren’t due to the science, but to the folks who want to dictate solutions to it.  Some people will point to the hypocrisy of Al Gore (who has a massive carbon footprint), or to the virtue signaling of banning plastic straws, with large fines and jail times, and a random legislator mentioning the regulation of every aspect of people’s lives.  When things like this get mentioned, the baby gets thrown out with the proverbial bathwater, and for some, this is the last straw (no pun intended!).

This is where good science and climate change reality can be doomed.  A look at the data (not modeling predictions) of sea ice coverage, sea level rise, Greenland ice mass loss, and CO2 levels show that the climate is changing, and we are the cause.  Alas, some in society see this as an opportunity to force change with a heavy hand, legislating jail time for plastic straws.  Having real, and perhaps even market driven solutions to pollution and climate change, or asking where most ocean pollution or greenhouse gas emissions comes from might be a better choice.  When people who are right of center see this, they may shake their heads, and wonder if this this is all just a ploy for control.

This isn’t a trait unique to the left, or to the reality of climate change.  Terrorist attacks are horrific, and there might be more in the wings, but does it justify going to war on questionable state-sponsored terrorism accusations, shaky weapons of mass destruction pretenses, and clamping down on civil liberties?  When “non-state actors” do really horrendous things, a strong, all-out, internationally coordinated police effort could be the wiser choice.  Likewise, people left of center see this, shake their heads, and wonder if this is all a ploy for control.

How do we separate the wheat from the chaff, reality from hype, concern from hysteria?   There are real problems and predicaments in society – take your pick of any one of them.  There will be data to support your argument.  But as soon as you ‘jump the shark’, and propose outlandish responses, or worse yet, fake the data, people will question your motives, and all that wonderful good data you have at your side can become useless.  There may be reasons to ban straws, or go to war with particular countries, but getting the data right without bias is critical.

When a crisis is happening, it is easy to get caught up in handling it immediately (let’s have action!).  When dealing with something horrific, it might even be tempting to be heavy handed in all the wrong ways.  When you are hypocritical, it is even worse.  It is at this point that reasonable people will begin to wonder – is this all a ploy, and using the crisis of the moment for something else?

As someone on the left on some issues, and on the right on others, it is frustrating.  A good many solutions to problems (or best practices in dealing with predicaments) can be thrown away because someone either deliberately (or through bad science) tries to tilt the scales in their favor.  In the end, left, right, and center – we all lose.

Questions:

  • What are other times where the data was great, but someone mucked it up because they overplayed the data, or flat out lied?
  • How can you separate reality from ‘reality plus hysteria’?  How do you prevent it?  Is this even possible?