Doughnut Economics — review

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. Kate Raworth. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017.

Our economy has already overshot critical environmental limits, and economic inequality seems to deepen with each passing day. But mainstream economists are strangely silent on these issues. What’s going on here? And what should the rest of us (non-economists) be thinking and doing?

Enter Kate Raworth, a renegade economist and feminist who proposes a completely different framework for understanding economics and who has now written a marvelous little book, Doughnut Economics, to popularize this whole subject. With luck, this book will shake economists out of their inadequate models and move them toward different and more relevant models. Continue reading

The planet is in danger (yawn)

Earth

Last Monday (November 13), a group of over 15,000 scientists issued “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” In most quarters, this notice was received politely and has already faded from the news cycle. One researcher complained about the “scaremongering” of the scientists, but much worse was the general silence — a kind of collective yawn — about what the “second notice” says and what we might do.

The key aspect of the warning missed by most reports, was that it suggested that we face limits to economic growth. Here are some salient points. Continue reading

Mark Jacobson’s lawsuit over renewables

Mark Jacobson, a prominent proponent of renewable energy, contends that we could relatively easily go to a completely renewable economy (wind, water, and solar) by 2050. But not everyone agrees with Jacobson. Last summer, twenty-one scientists headed by Christopher Clack published a paper that was critical of Jacobson’s approach. The heart of the disagreement is not whether climate change is real, but how to deal with climate change.

The upshot of these differing opinions is that Jacobson is now seeking $10 million in damages from Clack and his publisher, claiming that he has been defamed. You may have never heard of Jacobson or Clack, but this lawsuit has important political implications. Continue reading

No workable plan to stop using fossil fuels

We don’t have a workable plan to stop using fossil fuels. And NO, renewable energy is not such a plan.

Many are hoping that renewables will save the day, by providing the energy that the economy needs “renewably.” This is what Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Bill McKibben, and the Sierra Club are relying on. Unfortunately, it’s going to be much more expensive and take longer to achieve than most people think. And when we finally get there, our economy is going to be substantially smaller. Continue reading

Breathing and climate change

Source: Derzsi Elekes Andor

Does breathing contribute to climate change? With every breath we take, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. So are we contributing to climate change just by the act of breathing?

If someone knows a bit about biology, they might respond, “no, because new plants will replace the plants we have eaten, and the new plants will take up the carbon dioxide.” The actual answer is not some glib assurance that new plants will replace the old, but “it depends.” And when you spin out what precisely it depends on, it has very significant implications for how we address climate change. Continue reading

An Inconvenient Sequel ignores livestock agriculture

Al Gore’s new documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel” is well worth seeing. Coming out a decade after “An Inconvenient Truth,” it makes one key point on which we all can agree: climate change is already happening, illustrated with collapsing glaciers, extreme weather events, and more. To his credit, Gore does acknowledge agriculture — in one sentence — but immediately adds that the leading cause of climate change is fossil fuel emissions.

Well, isn’t he right?

I would turn Gore’s statement around: without addressing livestock agriculture, we will not be able to deal with climate change. And here’s why. Continue reading

The Ecological Hoofprint (review)

The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock. Tony Weis. London: Zed Books, 2013.

When we think about the ecological effects of livestock agriculture, many of us reflexively think about soil erosion, water pollution, or cutting down the rainforests.

Tony Weis, in The Ecological Hoofprint, shows that there is much more going on. There is an entire social framework underpinning livestock agriculture. This framework consists of political structures to legitimize extreme exploitation and an ideology to match. Ultimately, it is this social framework which is the problem, even more than the individual decision to eat (or not eat) meat. Continue reading

Vegetarianism and Christianity — are they compatible?

[The following article by Keith Akers was published in The Ark, No. 234, Autumn/Winter 2016 issue. The Ark is the publication of the Catholic Concern for Animals.]

Is vegetarianism part of Christianity, or are they incompatible? Christianity and vegetarianism don’t have to be in competition, but in practice they are. While many become vegetarians for health reasons, the heart of vegetarianism is its ethical component — the practice of not eating meat out of concern for the suffering of animals. Continue reading

Most popular posts from 2016

Thank you for taking an interest in the Compassionate Spirit blog. The more attentive of you have already noticed that just recently I haven’t been blogging as frequently. That’s because I’m working on an upcoming book concerned with degrowth and veganism. Blogging is fascinating, but it takes time to write a blog that isn’t just fluff. Unfortunately this situation will continue for a while. My book, while extremely interesting (at least to me!), is taking a lot longer than I thought it would. Extra credit if you can remember the last author, other than me, who said this.

In the meantime, for what it’s worth, here are the five most popular blog posts that I wrote in 2016. Continue reading

Will the USA survive until 2026?

p1020245-mediumTrump is slated to become our new Overlord, and a lot of people are really nervous, with good reason. I hope that people take care not to trample each other as they stampede toward the exits. Immediately after the election, the papers reported that so many people were asking about immigration to Canada that the Canadian immigration web site crashed. On top of that, there is now a movement for California independence. They are proposing to do it entirely legally and peacefully, via a California referendum and amending the U. S. constitution. Continue reading

The Sierra Club addresses livestock agriculture

sierra-club-mtg-10-18-2016Remember the very beginning of Cowspiracy, where the producers interview Bruce Hamilton representing the Sierra Club? Hamilton gives a litany of all the dire consequences of climate change, ending with a prediction of “climate wars.” He is then asked, “what about livestock and animal agriculture?” to which Hamilton innocently (and seemingly obliviously) responds, “well, what about it? I mean —”. This is the lead-in to Cowspiracy’s general theme that environmental organizations are either clueless or hypocritically silent about livestock agriculture and the environment.

If the producers of Cowspiracy had showed up at a local Sierra Club meeting last week, instead of interviewing Hamilton, Cowspiracy might have taken a very different turn. Continue reading

A system built on fraud

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Photo: Gage Skidmore

A growing economy is what almost everyone expects. But a growing economy is exactly what our system cannot honestly deliver, due to resource limits. This makes both business and political fraud much more likely.

Donald Trump’s unfortunately brilliant slogan, “Make America Great Again,” encapsulates this expectation of economic growth perfectly. It has brought this dishonest bully uncomfortably close to the levers of ultimate political power. But the natural resources to make the economy grow like we want it to just aren’t there. Our resource situation today is noticeably worse than it was just two decades ago, at the end of the twentieth century. Climate change is the most obvious environmental problem that we face, but others are waiting in the wings — peak oil, mass extinctions, deforestation, antibiotic resistance, the Zika virus, and others. Continue reading

If slaughterhouses had glass walls

Paul McCartney PETA

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.” This quotation from Paul McCartney is the basis for a 13-minute PETA video narrated by Sir Paul with some pretty graphic slaughterhouse footage. PETA is betting that once you know the truth about slaughterhouses, you’ll go vegetarian or vegan. This is also the philosophy implicit in a lot of vegetarian information campaigns ranging from gentle to graphic — Vegan Outreach pamphlets, the hour-long video “Earthlings,” and Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. But is it true? If slaughterhouses really had glass walls, either literally or metaphorically, would we all be vegetarian? Continue reading

Meathooked — review

Meathooked by Marta Zaraska - coverMeathooked: The History and Science of our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat. By Marta Zaraska. Basic Books, 2016.

A well-written and informative book, even when one doesn’t completely agree with it, is easy to review. This book fills the bill. Thank you, Marta Zaraska, for keeping us up to snuff on the issues. She also manages not to upset anyone, steering away from nasty little confrontations with vegetarian sensibilities. So, vegetarians, you can relax; your ethical sensibilities will not be sullied.

Zaraska, a freelance science journalist, provides the flip side of the “why are you vegetarian?” discussion — “why do you eat meat?” The author isn’t looking for, or trying to dissect, rational arguments for meat-eating — she’s just looking for an explanation or a cause for this behavior. Continue reading

It’s worse than we thought

The High Park Wildfire burns on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland on June 10, 2012. The High Park Wildfire located approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins, CO has consumed over 65, 738 acres of forest and grassland with approximately 189 homes destroyed. Over 1,773 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service (FS), state and local resources are fighting the wildfire and have achieved 55% containment as of June 20, 2012. The High Park Wildfire began on June 9. 2012 because of a lightening strike on private land. U.S. FS photo.

The High Park Wildfire, June 10, 2012. U.S. FS photo.

Climate change is a lot worse than we thought. This is catching even the climate scientists by surprise, according to a widely-cited story from the Thompson Reuters foundation. The World Meteorological Association reported record temperatures in June — for the 14th straight month. David Carlson, director of the WMO’s climate research programme, stated that “what concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps.” They knew it was bad, just not this bad.

And why do you suppose climate change is worse than anyone thought? Has this question occurred to anyone? Continue reading