Category Archives: Limits to Growth

Limitations on economic output due to resource constraints.

Talk on “Limits to Growth and Veganism”

I will be giving a talk on “Limits to Growth and Veganism” at the Vegan World 2026 Virtual Convergence. It will be Saturday (TOMORROW, October 31) at 1 PM Mountain Daylight time (= 3 PM Eastern Daylight time = 2 PM Central Daylight time = 12 noon Pacific Daylight).  It will be in the Vegan Infrastructure Room (New Ecology, New Economy, New Governance).   You can get tickets here. They are $49 each, but there is an option to ask to get in free, so no one will be turned away. The links will be sent out to ticket holders.

The convergence will be entirely virtual (you’ll need a PC, laptop, or other device to access it on the internet) and held this weekend (October 31 and November 1). It features Dr. John McDougall (“The Connection between Chronic Disease / Climate Change / COVID19 = Diet”),  Judy Carman (“Homo Ahimsa”), Renee King-Sonnen (the “Rowdy Girl”) and of course Sailesh Rao who will present the “Strategic Action Plan,” among many others. Continue reading

Weird politics 2

VOTE poster (1920) from the League of Women Voters. Public domain.

The President’s bizarre behavior and statements during the first 2020 Presidential debate on Tuesday amplified political weirdness. Many people are concerned that he could seriously impair or destroy the integrity of the elections. Americans are living in separate realities right now, each with its own “alternative facts.” If we can’t agree on basic realities, it is inevitable that public debate is going to degenerate, and the President has certainly accelerated this process.

Don’t panic yet: the smart money is on democracy to win in November, and the debate seemed to help the challenger. But what are the issues over which we are potentially ripping the country apart? Continue reading

Fire Blog 2

Fighting the Pine Gulch Fire. Source:
Bureau of Land Management (public domain)

Colorado is burning, California and Oregon are burning, and the world is burning. The coronavirus pandemic distracted our momentary amazement at the breadth and depth of the Australia fires earlier this year (remember them?). The pandemic was itself a consequence of our fascination with killing and eating animals; it started with eating pangolins, and it’s being spread through slaughterhouses. Now, America is literally on fire. We are destroying animals and trees wholesale and we’re noticing that the air is unhealthy. Continue reading

Is wilderness gone already?

Bull elephant from Sabi Sands of South Africa. Photo by Lee R. Berger. Source.

The pandemic has hurt “wildlife tourism” and endangered the wildlife which drew in the tourists. The Guardian announced (May 5) that, “Ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife,” and The Washington Post adds (July 17) that this tourism “is essential to wildlife conservation in many African countries.”

These reports are all very true, but send the wrong message and obscure an important reality: wilderness is almost completely gone already. Instead of preserving wilderness, we should be trying to re-establish wilderness. Continue reading

Basic income and veganism

Basic income demonstration in Berlin, 2013. Credit: stanjourdan, https://www.flickr.com/people/39524850@N04, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Systemic, radical changes in the United States are now in the cards. You can feel it in the news and in the streets, even with COVID-19 acting as a damper on protests. But we haven’t had much discussion of what specifically these changes should be. We know—though mainstream economists still haven’t figured it out—that economic growth isn’t the answer: we have hit the limits to growth. We need a basic income: a guaranteed cash payment to all adult citizens sufficient to support a minimal lifestyle.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “OK, basic income: possibly a good idea. But what does this have to do with veganism?” Continue reading

Drawdown

Book cover for “Drawdown”

Several years ago, I took a look at the book Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken. It has now been turned into a web site, “Project Drawdown,” which several people have recently mentioned to me. It’s a list of proposed solutions to global warming. It is not so much a plan to deal with global warming, but rather strategies that could be integrated into a plan. There are lots of good ideas, including not only the standard ones such as renewable energy, but also including plant-rich diets, forest restoration, bicycle infrastructure, and others.

Approaching global warming in this way looks like an attempt to retrofit sustainability onto our existing system. Is this going to work? Continue reading

Veganism as a response to limits to growth

A makeshift memorial near the bus stop where the incident occurred, photographed on May 27. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Lorie Shaull at https://flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/49943807607.

Limits to growth are now here. Our economy used to work just fine but hasn’t been working so well for the past few decades. With limits to growth, it is now not going to work at all.

One failure is our way of dealing with social inequality. The only way that we have tried to deal with social inequality is through economic growth. We’ve assumed for some time that capitalistic expansion of the economy will solve problems of inequality. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” that is, a bigger economy will be bigger for everyone. Continue reading

Is it peak oil yet?

The BP oil spill, April 20, 2010. Public domain image from the U. S. Coast Guard. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Deepwater_Horizon_offshore_drilling_unit_on_fire_2010.jpg

Is peak oil here? Yes! Peak oil has finally arrived! I’m hardly alone in raising this issue; Gail Tverberg, Art Berman, Kurt Cobb, and Alice Friedmann (and at this point probably many others) are expressing similar concerns.

Wait a minute, it has PROBABLY arrived. Allow me to explain. Continue reading

Thinking the unthinkable

“Castle Bravo” blast in 1954. Public domain image from US Department of Energy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Castle_Bravo_Blast.jpg

Will a million Americans die due to the COVID-19 pandemic? I doubt that the casualties will get this high, but it is not unthinkable.

When I was young, the “unthinkable” was the possibility of human-caused nuclear war. Today, we face the reality of human-caused pandemic diseases. The destruction from this pandemic probably won’t be quite as grim as an all-out nuclear war. But it is getting into, perhaps, the terror of a limited nuclear exchange. Continue reading

Keep calm: plants have protein

I’m ready for this campaign.

The pandemic is scary, but its scariest aspect is something we still don’t know: what will be our society’s ultimate reaction to it? Our treatment of animals was key to the origins of the pandemic, but it is also part of resolving the pandemic.

President Trump is struggling to keep slaughterhouses going and recently declared them to be “essential.” His views are now being backed up by armed right wing protesters demonstrating to reopen the economy. Slaughterhouses are trying to return to their bloody normal, with some sort of minimal protections for slaughterhouse workers; but protections for workers from the virus are still not mandated by the CDC. Some think that slaughterhouses will just continue to produce meat even if it means increased risks to workers.

Vegans can become the voice of calm in this crisis by stating the obvious: plants have protein. Continue reading

Shut down the slaughterhouses

On Tuesday, the Denver Post reported  that “5th Greeley JBS worker dies.” JBS is a Colorado slaughterhouse employing 6000 workers. Over 100 employees tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and five have died: four workers and one person who worked at the corporate office. (Let’s see, that works out to about a 5% mortality rate.) Despite this, JBS is re-opening! And the company is going to court to stop the union from raising safety concerns in public! Continue reading

Shock Treatment

Earth seen from Apollo 17 – public domain image

It’s the 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day. I certainly didn’t think I’d be celebrating it like this: inside our house, in the middle of a pandemic. This pandemic is shock treatment for both the economy and the political system. Where do we go from here?

As a college student, I remember the local celebrations of the very first Earth Day in Nashville in 1970. I wasn’t yet vegan. The event itself seemed rather innocuous. I don’t remember any of the speeches and didn’t stay until the end. Sure, I thought, it’s nice to protect the environment. But the need for clean air, clean water, and nice places for Smokey the Bear to live didn’t seem to present the same sort of existential threat that the war in Vietnam did, in which hundreds of thousands were being killed and of which we ourselves could conceivably become victims.

Today the environmental crisis is an existential threat to human civilization far greater than the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Destroying the planet to save it

Ecotourism in Zimbabwe. Source: JackyR (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mudbath5.jpg)

Flying harms the climate. Air travel is growing rapidly. Its net impact is nearly twice as great as the impact of the CO2 emissions alone, much greater than that from cars. Air travel creates nitrous oxides, water vapor, sulfate aerosols, soot aerosols, and contrails. Noted climate activist Greta Thunberg famously went out of her way to avoid flying to a climate conference on the other side of the Atlantic.

So should we all stop flying, or at least avoid flying as much as possible? In a recent New York Times opinion article, Costas Christ (of Beyond Green Travel) argued that flying as part of wildlife tourism may actually be climate-friendly. Continue reading

The Uninhabitable Earth — review

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. David Wallace-Wells. Tim Duggan Books, 2019. 310 pages, $27.00 (US).

“It is worse, much worse, than you think.” With this first line, David Wallace-Wells perfectly summarizes a fresh, well-documented, and well-written apocalypse of global warming. For the author, it is a future both horrible and, at this point, inevitable. Gone are the bitter warnings often found in climate change literature that this is the last generation which can take effective action — or the last decade, or the last five years, or whatever arbitrary deadline is being set. Gone, also, are the cheerful lists of things you can do for the earth. In place of a program of action, there is only an ethics for the end of the world.

But Wallace-Wells is not a pessimist. Far from it! “We will, almost certainly, avoid eight degrees [Celsius] of warming” (p. 15). A mere four or five degrees is more likely. That’s just a bit less than the warming that preceded the Permian-Triassic extinction 252 million years ago, which knocked out almost all life on the planet and 95% of all species. Continue reading

A delusional Nobel Prize winner

Nordhaus in his Yale classroom on October 8. Photography ©Mara Lavitt – October 8, 2018

William Nordhaus has been awarded the Nobel Prize for economics for his work on climate change and growth (which he shares with Paul Romer). In many quarters, this is being hailed as good news, because it recognizes the reality of climate change and integrates climate change into economics. In reality, this prize rewards exactly the kind of economic thinking that created climate change in the first place — namely, the emphasis on economic growth. Continue reading