Category Archives: Ecological Economics

The economy is part of the environment, not vice versa.

Great New Book on the Collapse of Civilizations

Secular Cycles. Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov.  Princeton University Press, 2009.

Secular Cycles is a phenomenal and important book.  It is clearly of interest to anyone who is concerned about things like the collapse of civilizations, and specifically the possible collapse of our civilization. Even though it’s new to me, it’s actually not new — it was published in 2009, and I’m only now finding out about it, and reading it!  I first heard of it through Gail Tverberg’s blog, “Our Finite World,” and I hope it finds a wide readership. But a word of warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to love the subject or you’ll never make it through the book. It doesn’t use a lot of technical terms, and is clearly written, just very academic. Continue reading

Is Violence Declining?

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Penguin Books, 2011), argues that human violence has declined. Violence was much more widespread in primitive societies than in historical times, and more widespread in the Middle Ages than in the twentieth century — yes, even worse than the First and Second World Wars. After reading his lengthy but quite readable book, I am convinced — violence between humans has indeed declined. It’s an engrossing and ground-breaking book, by the way; everyone from Peter Singer to the Wall Street Journal has praised it.

However, there are a few small points I want to raise concerning the book. Specifically, violence towards animals has increased; and the peace between humans is largely dependent on our relative affluence, which in turn depends on our exploitation of natural resources, which are now seriously depleted. Continue reading

The Fire Blog (continued)

Black Forest Fire, as seen from Colorado Springs, June 11 at 9:30 pm

Last year, I wrote a blog about the wildfires in Colorado. Wildfires were huge, and after the Waldo Canyon fire, President Obama came out to Colorado and gave a soothing speech. This year, we once again have wildfires burning in Colorado.

This year’s Black Forest fire, cause still unknown, was actually more destructive than last year’s Waldo Canyon fire. Yesterday, 19 firefighters were killed fighting a similar fire in Arizona. Maybe climate change has something to do with this?  Do you think? Continue reading

Are We Screwed?

The April 2013 issue of VegNews, their environmental issue, asks on the cover: “Are We Screwed?” The cover quickly adds: “We don’t think so—219 reasons why!”

I don’t see any list of 219 reasons, but the ones listed on the cover are definitely not convincing to anyone who understands the seriousness of climate change and resource depletion. The VegNews cover advertises, “Eco-entrepreneurs are turning trash into treasure”; “New Zealand’s pristine beauty,” “detoxing your home is a breeze,” and some others (see photo). Inside, there’s even an article on travel to New Zealand! Continue reading

Anthony Marr

Anthony Marr

We went to hear Anthony Marr last Monday night.  He spoke on “How to Save Planet Earth.”  Anthony Marr is unusual in the vegan community because, unlike most vegans, he has a scientific background and clearly understands the whole problem of peak oil, climate change, and economic collapse. He made a number of points, but here are three points he made that I thought were especially significant: latent heat, the most poisonous substance, and economic collapse. Continue reading

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice is a just-released documentary which makes climate change both undeniable and vivid. James Balog, a National Geographic photographer who was once a climate change skeptic, sets out to photograph evidence of the effects of climate change. He goes to the far north with a team of fellow adventurers (dubbed the “Extreme Ice Survey”), where he sets up cameras in really hard-to-get-to places to take time-lapse photos of glaciers and ice caps, so that we can find out just what is going on. Continue reading

Clueless on Climate Change

Which is worse, a President who doesn’t believe in climate change, or a President who believes in it but won’t do anything about it? President Obama’s brief remarks on climate change (about 500 words) at yesterday’s news conference clearly demonstrates that we face four more years of inaction (at best!) on climate change.

Mark Landler asked, “What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?” Continue reading


Romney and Obama debate

The second debate between Obama and Romney demonstrated that both are clueless over the most critical issues facing the country and planet earth: those concerning the environment.  Do we really have another four years to fiddle away while climate change and resource depletion continue their march forward, and we have a President who doesn’t understand the basic nature of the problem? Continue reading

Who’s Afraid of the Fiscal Cliff?

Everybody agrees the U. S. national debt is too high, but no one can agree on what to do about it.  Raise taxes, or cut spending, or both? So Congress decided to kick the can down the road one last time, by specifying a number of “drastic” measures (tax increases and spending cuts) which will go into effect automatically at the end of 2012 unless Congress can come up with something better.

So, are you worried?

This “fix it or else” alternative is known as the “fiscal cliff” because if these cuts and taxes go into effect, everyone fears it will mean another serious recession. The Fiscal Cliff is a symptom that we have run into the limits to growth advertised in the 1972 book of the same name. Continue reading

Why Does Whole Foods Sell Meat?

(Hint: It has something to do with the economic system)

James McWilliams recently (September 4) wrote an open letter to Whole Foods asking them to close their meat counters.  This is noteworthy because John Mackey, their CEO, is himself a vegan, even though Whole Foods sells a lot of animal products.  Continue reading

Passive House Politics Getting Complicated

The “passive house” concept is taking off.  This is a new way of building homes that reduces the energy required for their maintenance by an amazing 90% from the standard construction.  This way of constructing buildings is essential if we are to deal with such challenges as climate change and resource depletion. Continue reading

Save Chatfield State Park

Part of Chatfield that could be flooded and destroyed.

Kate and I recently visited Chatfield State Park, less than 25 miles from downtown Denver, on our bicycles.  It’s home to a lot of wildlife, woodlands, and wetland; its residents include deer, elk, porcupines, beaver, and 350 species of resident and migratory birds, among other animals. Not only is it a beautiful, well-developed park, it is also one the Colorado’s most popular state parks, attracting both local and out-of-state visitors.

Now we have discovered that a consortium of water districts wants to destroy Chatfield by using Chatfield Reservoir to store additional water.  The water level would be raised by 12 feet, and would fluctuate as much as 21 feet.  Swim beaches, woodlands, and shaded picnic sites would be destroyed, as over 587 acres of irreplaceable habitat would be flooded. Obviously, revenue from visitors to the park will be lost as well. Yet this irresponsible course of action now being put forward by the Draft Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers. Continue reading

Politics and the Environmental Crisis


Hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into the political campaigns, and the networks are deluging us with stories about the U. S. presidential campaign.  Yet the most critical issue of our time, the environment, is getting zero attention.

The environmental crisis is a crisis of the first order.  It threatens not just the country but all life on the planet; and not in just some distant future, but in a future that many humans on the planet now will likely live to see.  Resource depletion, peak oil, economic collapse, and climate change could easily overwhelm human societies and their ability to react to problems created by economic activity. Continue reading

Does Digitization Decrease Empathy?

James McWilliams recently asked whether the digitization of communications decreases empathy, and thus potentially our empathy with other humans and animals.  He talks about e-mail between students and professors, “butchered” grammar in e-mail being used to substitute for the student and the professor actually having a conversation, and wonders where this is all headed. Yes, the new media enable vegans to promote their cause more effectively (Earthlings), but it also enables the bad guys to push their case with equal or greater effectiveness. Continue reading

The Fire Blog

Waldo Canyon Fire (NASA)

Politicians fiddle while Colorado burns.  We need to change our lifestyle if we want to avoid this fate or one like it. You can’t “grow the economy” without increasing fossil fuel use and without making climate change worse, not to mention the other serious problems which economic growth will make worse — resource depletion, soil erosion, species extinctions, and world hunger.  People need to understand this and learn to live with less. Continue reading