Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Customs in Common - Goldman

Goldman’s piece on the commons in an incredibly large, comprehensive, reflexive and retrospective look at the many different views and ideologies that plague the commons to this day; He takes several different views, distills them down and produces a piece that makes sense. Starting with Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons”, weaving through then to Human Ecologists who use field-based science to identify the surviving features of the commons tenure systems and resource-management institutions. Onward to then ties in the World Bank and its Developmental Experts who’s main goal is to find the problem and “fix it” or follow a more policy oriented path, and then bringing the scope of the issue full circle with GRM’s (Global Resource Managers) who take a global stance on the “degradation that threatens to imperil all life on earth”.


“Custom’s in Common” is what I find to be Goldman’s breaking down of the complexities and bringing the information on the commons to the masses in a piece of literature that is vastly more interesting to read and far easier to understand. He, for me, took every aspect of the commons in which there may have been a question and adequately explained what each private sector is attempting to do about a global degradation of social and ecological institutions (ie: the commons).

Shifting through each page Goldman has written reminds me just how much I love being a Marxist, down deep in my soul. Human Ecologists do work from a local perspective by shying away from the power elite. In doing so they are on one hand aiding the problem with temporary solutions but on the other hand only masking a bigger issue. Once their aid is no longer sustainable it is wiped away and they must start with a fresh slate to again produce temporary solutions.

>Developmental Experts step in to “fix” the problem, as state above. This is where the use of policy making and power elite come into play. This is the idea that the problem can be resolved with an increased amount of paperwork and spending. While the World Bank does have its heart geared in the right direction there is a horrible misuse of the resources which could possibly pose a solution. To me, Goldman hits the nail on the head when he says, “… like so many other Bank-financed projects trying to develop common lands, developers “proceed in the absence of a clear understanding of the sociological context and institutional arrangements (including property rights) on the ground.”” (9). Yes, exactly.

Global Resource Managers (GRMs), aptly labeled: expert “world watchers”, take the issue to the next level, the global level. When looking at the issues from a global perspective hordes and hordes of new and fascinating ideas, risks, pitfalls and cataclysmic disasters begin to appear. They are looking globally at the degradation of global commons and proposing effective solutions for the GLOBAL issue. However once again capitalistic interests run rampant through solutions because how else are we expected to solve the problems but to spend, spend, spend?!

This section of the literature is where it becomes visable that the GRMs interests are to push what is ALSO a Northern problem on to Southern countries. This is made clear as day in respect to the WRI and their framing of global warming as a Third World problem. Goldman writes “…By neglecting to distinguish between “luxury emissions” such as air conditioners and automobiles in rich capitalist countries and “survival emissions” from rice and milk production in poorer capitalist and socialist countries…” (20). Compelling information, however, shocking? Not so much.

Goldman’s conclusion really sealed the deal and brought all of the information together in my brain. Natural and human processes are largely wrapped up in the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Everything is judged based on capital, the economy, competition, et cetera. Capitalism sucks.

The End.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Customs in Common

Michael Goldman is upset with the exploitative development and modernization Northern commons experts execute on “the social and ecological life worlds of the commoners” of the global South. He is (generally) unconvinced of any altruistic motives and moves the ‘tragedy of the commons’ onto the (falsely) helpful groups, which he names the Human Ecologists, the Development Experts, and the Global Resource Managers. In other words, these dominating global North groups are pushing capitalism on global South people, even people who fight against such development.

The Human Ecologists focus on local problems and condemn big government and elites. The provided explanation reminded me of The Simpsons, when Lisa and Marge cleaned a large patch of beach from an oil spill, then the tide came in and everything was ruined again. Human ecologists clean the beach, while a bigger mess is taking place in “the fundamental pillars of society.” They should focus more on the dialogue and power relations between local and nonlocal.

The Development Experts of the World Bank have taken it upon themselves to ‘fix’ Third World problems in the names of productivity and efficiency. They want to keep things local, but educate the locals on how to use their land\resources to maximum capacity. Bank projects have failed supposedly because of a lack of complete factual local data; problems faced by both Bank staff and local governments. However, the acquisition of that knowledge “begs for an explicit, and reflexive, declaration as to what this knowledge is, what it is for, and whom it will serve.” Using the tangled web example between the World Bank and rural Africa, the knowledge is for exploitation and serves capitalism of the global North. The example is on page 12.

The Global Resource Managers sound like they have everyone’s interests in mind: ozone, seas, climate, toxic-contaminated communities, deforestation, wildlife, etc.. Their purpose is to come up with solutions that will make the planet a nice place to live for now and in the future. New technologies are their answer. However, they are still capitalistically based. This means 1) still more pollutants (even if cars are mostly green), 2) more stuff and pollution due to demands in the North-South industry complex, and 3) more raw materials used in greening projects (while blame goes to the locals). GRM’s have implanted their skewed views (like not differentiating between luxury and survival emissions, and unjustly blaming Third World people for surviving at the expense of resources and such) and authorial stances, and do not work at local levels.

The commoners-and-commons-in-crisis have been “organizing antidevelopment and anti-state movements” where locals want to “reclaim power over land and resources.” They (at least the ones fighting) don’t want to submit to elite modernization\development ideas, or to deal with “capitalist overproduction” (being wasteful) or “underproduction” (not replenishing what was wasted). As we’ve talked about “viewing ecological limits as social limits,” the problems become more apparent. Capitalist normativity does not hold the commons or the commoners (as this article calls large groups of exploited people) interests above productivity (and then more productivity).

Successor Sciences that would be more helpful to more people (i.e. not capitalism) would put the commons in real situations where struggles of power and imperialism are constant, rather than think of them (commons) as artifacts (for production). How these successor sciences could gain the trust of people who have been exploited by capitalism, I’m not sure. I’m not even sure if I trust them (especially because I don’t know what they are). They probably would have someone’s self interest embeded within. Thanks a lot capitalism, you jerk.

The Tragedy of the Commons

This article is about the population crisis. Hardin uses the “commons” to refer to resources as a whole that everyone has access to. The tragedy of the commons is that there is really no “technical solution” to the population problem. The population continues to expand exponentially, but the resources needed to sustain human life do not. Therefore at some point the carrying capacity is reached, and the resources must run out.

A commonly suggested solution for the population problem is to try to appeal to people’s consciences. In other words, they would try to convince people that it is selfish and wrong to have more children than what is needed to replace the parents. However, the belief is that “conscience or the desire for children is hereditary”. Therefore, the people that have more children are more likely to pass on this lack of conscience to more offspring, so the conscientious people eventually become obsolete.
There really is no technical solution to this problem. As long as technology continues to advance, there is really no way of making population growth equal zero. People live to older ages now due to medical advances and more babies are born every day because of advancements in maternity and pre-natal care. People will never agree to give up the technology that they have or will have, so the technology and the population will continue to grow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tragedy of the Commons

Garret Hardin's argument is that the population problem has no technical solution, that to fix the problem of the finite resources we can't just "farm the seas or develop new strains of wheat." Hardin makes a very good point when he says that people are trying to avoid the consequences of overpopulation without giving up any of their luxuries. I don't think that this can be done especially if everyone lived how they wanted, sooner or later the most populated places on earth will want to industrialize, and it is not right to tell them they can't. Hardin makes a good argument that both population and good for that population cannot both be maximized. He says that for a man to live that he requires a certain number of calories. Anything he consumes after that is "work calories" work calories are defined as any kind of energy that is not required for sustaining life, such as enjoyment or passion. Hardin argues in many different ways that having a commons will eventually lead to tragedy. He uses the example of a common pasture where if the farmers would all collectivly restrain their cattle from overgrazing the field it would be enough to sustain all the farmers. But if one of the farmers would allow their cattle to overgraze then the other farmers would not have any green pasture to graze on. Due to this all of the farmers fear the pasture will be over grazed so the individual farmer maximizes his own personal gain by allowing his cattle to overgraze the field. Another great example that Hardin gives is the situation of the national parks, that are "open to all without limit." If every one can visit the parks as much as they want eventually the "values they seek will be eroded."
Hardin argues that technical solutions cannot fix the population problem because they require no change to human morality, but maybe that is some of the problem. like David Harvey he mentions the problem of welfare which in a way increases over breeding. He says that if each family was dependent on its own resources alone, that over breeding would create its own punishment, for example the children starving to death. this is a very good article, it is my favorite one I have read for this class so far.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Taking Population Seriously: Power and Fertility

Taking Population Seriously begins with figures that would make anybody cringe: 85% of world population growth has occurred in the Third World. After stating this fact the authors ask: What set off this population explosion and how can it be balanced with the Earth’s ecology? They present a new way of solving the questions by presenting their “power-structures” perspective, which shows how “the powerlessness of the poor often leaves them little option but large families… High birthrates can be understood as a defensive response against structures of power that fail to provide – or actively block access to – sources of security beyond the family.”
The article goes on to discuss their stance on the problem with the high population and where the true source of environmental destruction lies. They point to social forces that make it impossible for people in certain societies to be able to survive without hoards of children. Their “power structure” deals with those who make the decisions and in whose interest decisions are made. Their overall thesis is “anti democratic power structures create and perpetuate conditions keeping fertility high.” Which should be great for American’s to hear, but, unfortunately, Americans and American companies do not always have the needs of the poor tribesman in mind when they rape the land they’ve lived on for generations.
Large companies are pointed at for exploiting the land and forcing people to have such large families to be able to meet ends meet. A poignant example was from two rainforest ecologists that wrote, “to blame colonizing peasants for uprooting tribal people and burning the rainforest is tantamount to blaming soldiers for causing wars.” It is a good comparison that makes you despise the lumber companies and such big consumers for making the fault become the poor peasant farmer.
I never thought about it on the scale of the individual family that had the large family. Women’s rights seem to hold a large amount of sway. As we have heard in class, and most women already have knowledge of, is where babies come from and if you do not want one it is usually easy enough to prevent it. The authors make it seem that without anything else in their lives women will just make babies for the hell of it. I cannot say I agree that women when they have no other option will just keep having kid after kid (or have eight kids to add to your brood and make fourteen). But the author’s redeemed themselves when they went on to discuss Patriarchal family and community attitudes. It is not so much that women have nothing else, but that they are forced to keep having babies. So, really, men are the problem since they force women to have babies when they don’t want to, right? Not according to the authors, because it is the people that oppress the men that give them low self-esteem which makes them beat their wives and treat them terribly.
The unjust social and economic structures further go to depress the reader because the poor state of their country is what never even gave them a chance. They pay the United States and rich nations huge sums of money and are forced to cut state funding for health and welfare and food subsidies. The author’s bring back the discussion to the balance of power and why it is crucial in trying to understand the complex issues of “poverty, hunger, population growth, and ecological stress.” This states that to make birth levels decrease to only replacement rates, far-reaching economic and political change is necessary. Easier said than done, unfortunately.
I like that the authors point out that it is not teaching people smart family planning that will benefit the people in the Third World. It doesn’t work in the United States, so why would anybody else go for the plan? The factor that seems to influence people the most is their access to a basic diet and being able to raise their health, which essentially raises their standard of living. It is through social changes and looking at the subject by studying its various causes that population rates will be influenced.
Overall, the article made me become angry at men, for forcing their wives to have more babies, and at the United States because of their power to uphold governments that block necessary to benefit the people in those nations. One of the last lines I found oddly, darkly humourous, “there is no solution – short of dehumanizing coercion or plagues – to the population explosion.” So the easiest way to reduce population is by spreading diseases to the disenfranchised that are in that position because we put them there….it seems like the West has done that before…

Taking Population Seriously

The article in question deals with third world population growth in relation to power structures and fertility. The author's mainly talks about how decision making power can lead to higher fertility rates. Also, depending on if certain power structures within a country are democratic or anti-democratic, it will affect the number of children a woman will have. All in all it is the amount of social power the poor have that will affect fertility rates.
There are many people that believe that overpopulation is the culprit for hunger and starvation and poverty in these third world countries. But as we have learned in class and read in this article, the reasons are more complex than that.

The author talks about the "Power Structures Perspective". What this is saying is that economic, social and cultural forces are keeping the fertility rates high in the global south. High fertility becomes more of an effect of poverty than a cause. When people have are facing starvation and have no income it helps to have more children to have more help and to care for the parents in their old age. They see having more children as a key to surviving.

The type of power structure a country has will affect the fertility rate, whether it be at the governmental level, economic level or within the family. In countries where women have much less power, they are often persuaded to have more children by their husbands and community, especially to have a boy. It can be said that these women have no control over their own fertility. People who have no idea up here in the global north seem to think that these people don't know any better and don't know when to say when. But, as it turns out, they do know what they are doing, it is just the dire situations in which they are in that foster these high reproduction rates. I thought it was interesting in the article the author points out that when the men have low esteem due to not being able to provide an income for their family, they grasp at the self-esteem they can get by feeling superior to their wife, which will then make them much more powerless.

The solutions to these problems are that economic and political change is needed in order to enhance the security of the poor members of these societies. The author talks about family planning incentives that some countries have instituted to help with population problems. Of the seven countries that have done this, the ones that actually instituted social change by providing birth control programs and assured basic necessities were the ones that succeeded the best. When people have access to affordable birth control, food and other basic needs, it leads to higher confidence and then to lower birth rates.

The main idea I got from this article is that in order to help the population problem, there needs to be a change toward a more democratic power structure. Fertility rates will only grow in impoverished conditions due to the low standings of the poor.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Population, Resources, and the Ideology of Science

David Harvey wrote this journal to explain that "The lack of ethical neutrality in science affects each and every attempt at scientific discussion of the population of resource relationship." He does this by discussing the views of Malthus, Ricardo, and Marx. Malthus uses the method of empiricism which I have found through the readings to be explained as a view that you can only believe something if you have experienced it or seen it first hand. Malthus uses the example of a man becoming and ostrich; Malthus says that he cannot contradict the statement if it can be shown that "The necks of man have been gradually elongating and the legs and feet are altering in shape" David Harvey goes on to discuss Malthus' morals. Malthus believed that society takes everything from the poor so that they can only think about the present and never think about the future because they have to worry about their "present necessities."
Malthus believes that giving welfare to lower classes only makes the more miserable because it doesn't give them any incentive to work as they are taken care of by the government. So the lower class continues to increase in number. Malthus also believes that the higher classes don't increase in population as much because they are afraid to lose their stature.

Ricardo believed that population regulated itself and is related to the wages of laborers, "the encouragement of high wages give to the increase in population, the number of laboures is increased, wages again fall to their natural price and indeed from a reaction sometimes fall below it." Ricardo believes that if wages are above their natural price because of accumulation of capitol then the population will not increase as rapidly.

Marx believed that nothing could be understood independently of the relations in which it has to other things. Marx uses the example of resources which "can be defined only in relationship to the mode of production." Resources cannot be understood with out considering the activity of consumers. In this aspect I agree with Marx's thinking. I also agree with Marx when he says that capitalism freed mankind from nature. Marx's method is called dialectical materialism.

Although this reading was kind of hard to understand at first after re-reading many of the sections over numerous times I can see how the examples explained the different views of the population resource principle.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Population, Resources, and the Ideology of Science

Malthus advocates the method of empiricism. From what I gathered Malthus believes that as long as something can be thoroughly explained then he can believe it. His example is of somebody arguing that man is becoming an ostrich. In order for him to go along with this idea the man must explain that “necks of mankind have been gradually elongating, that the lips have grown harder and more prominent, that the legs and feet and altering their shape, and that the hair is beginning to change into stubs of feathers.” Empiricism is a method which tests the existing order of things against the realities of the world. I guess I can follow along with this method. It seems to make sense that if somebody can show you that people are becoming more ostrich like than there is merit to that argument, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.
Malthus believes that over-population is a direct result of the class system; at least that’s what I believe he is getting at. He claims that people in the lower class are miserable and they can only survive on welfare. It is safe to say that they have a pretty low standard of living. When people have such low standards of living they lack “positive checks” which then results in “expansion of their numbers.” So according to Malthus the poor people are the problem when it comes to overpopulation. I don’t know if I agree that it’s because they are provided welfare but I think I do agree that they do have more kids. I could be completely wrong but it seems like rich people don’t have as many kids and it’s the poor people who can’t afford it that do have children. So it seems to me that Malthus is right about that. Malthus believes that the rich don’t have as many kids because they are afraid of “a decline in their station of life.” I don’t really know why the poor are the ones having the children and the rich aren’t so I don’t know if I can agree with that reason. I guess I would say that Malthus would have to explain these ideas a little more, like why rich people believe that having a lot of kids will lower their class.
Ricardo was a normative. Normative isn’t really explained though. So according to Wikipedia normative has “specialized meanings in several academic disciplines. It means relating to an ideal standard or model.” From what I gathered Ricardo focuses more on social harmony.
According to Ricardo, it is the demand for labor which is the principle of population. If the demand is high then the laborers will “automatically increase their numbers.” In an ideal world “the rate of accumulation of capital could exceed that of the power of population to reproduce, and during such periods wages would be well above their natural price.” Ricardo is saying that wages and happiness of the community depend on a balance of capital and population. Ricardo believes that population regulates itself. This statement really had me thinking wait a minute. I don’t know if Ricardo could make such an assumption without really explaining that. Is he saying that somehow conception depends on this balance? So if that were the case women wouldn’t get pregnant unless there was a need for that baby in the labor force in 16 years when the child could work, right? I don’t think that makes much sense at all.
Marx’s method is known as dialectical materialism. I’m not exactly sure what that means, and that doesn’t surprise me because when I think of Marx I automatically go “aahhh!”
In order to explain population Marx used the theory of surplus value. “Surplus value, he argued, originated out of surplus labor, which is that part of the laborer’s working time that is rendered gratis to the capitalist.” This is when a laborer works a ten hour day when he only needs six hours to make enough to live off of. The capitalists make the laborer work a longer shift but only pay him for those six hours so in the end the capitalists are getting four free hours of work from that laborer. He uses this theory to explain population by looking at this surplus value and seeing that “more money has to be laid out on wages and the purchase of raw materials and means of production. If the wage rate and productivity remain constant, then accumulation requires a concomitant numerical expansion in the labor force.” I’m not sure how this is much different from Ricardo’s theory on population. In that case I have the same argument for that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Contrarian thought and the true discourse

I was first struck by still more “studies” and “models” that suggest we’ve only begun to tap into the Earth’s reserves of finite resources, and all that remains is to find still more technologically innovative means of extracting them. As much as we talked about models on Tuesday, it was rather dismaying to read more comments of a “if you’d just believe my model” tint. The back and forth about who is “actually” being technocratic is no surprise, however. Computers and models are fine until they don’t show the desired outcome: then they must be attacked as unreliable, according to the thinking presented in the article.
As for the “natural limits” that the Marxists worried about, I fear that there is not sufficient motivation to most accurately predict those limits. I feel that certain “natural limits” will have to be broken, with disastrous consequences, for meaningful action to take place. This isn’t to say all thresholds will be crossed, but I think that most people in the US and the G77 need something tangible. I was intrigued by Bookchin’s distinction between LTG’s treatment of mutually exclusive natural and social scarcity. I couldn’t agree more that “the debilitating lifestyles that accompany a sedentary, congested, stressful, urbanized world” is an area that is largely ignored in the greater debate. The emergence of text-messaging as the preferred form of communication among young people will, I believe, lead to even more difficulty in establishing any type of meaningful consensus, as face-to-face debate and negotiation become “icky” or “scary”.

While it’s easy in hindsight to slam the Reagan/Thatcher agenda (and, please do, slam away), it is important to mention that Keynsian economics had slowed economic growth and opened the door for the first major energy crisis. That the second crisis, just last year, preceded current economic crisis is another example of the interconnectedness of these issues. While Americans screamed “yahoo!” at tumbling gas prices, they didn’t think twice that this was due to the fact that most people in the G77 were no longer able to buy it at all due to the screeching halt of their economies.

The idea that “Pat Robertson in the Christian Coalition started to view environmentalists at [sic] the evil priests of a new paganism” is not as surprising as it first sounds, given the green movement’s association (willing or not) with extreme-Leftism. Further, the assertion of anti-environmentalism as being steeped in racism lends support to this association with the extreme-Right. The notion that environmentalists are all wealthy, trust-fund babies with a hunger for granola and a zeal for saving seals ignores the fact that the people most often faced with REAL and TANGIBLE environmental problems in the PRESENT are poor and non-white. In all, the contrarian movement has had all the signs of a Right-wing movement: incredible focus, determination and the resources to back these up.

While it’s fine to say that environmentalism isn’t a “Right or Left” ideological battle, it sure sounds that way to most Americans. My hope is that the PETA vegans and the sportsmen groups can stop trashing each other long enough to realize that they share a LOT of goals.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Anti-Environmentalism ect...

This article is, for the most part, a critique of the dichotomous viewpoints of Malthusians/environmentalists and their opposites known as the contrarians. From what I gather from this is that the world is not going to benefit much from either side. The Malthusians and hardcore environmentalists are saying how people are destroying the planet and we are going to run out of resources very soon. They take an apocalyptic view of the world. The contrarians, on the other hand, do kind of the opposite and say that all these environmental problems are bull. One of the main ideas that I got from this article is that the issues are far more complicated than the black and white these opposing sides talk about.
Starting with the Malthusian and environmentalist perspective, the authors critique the ideas they have estabolished. One issue being that these doomsayers have for a long time ranting about resource depletion being imminent. It is probably safe to say that we will run out of fossil fuels at some point in the future, but the main point is that the Malthusian types undermine technological advances to find new resources and innovations.
Another point made is that environmentalists have the tendency to obsess over overpopulation and how it is putting strains on "natural limits". They do not really look at the evidence that it is a social problem involving maldistrobution of resources. The complex factors that affected population growth spurts is not looked at and hunger and famine are seen as a population problem that needs to be adressed by possibly implementing laws that would curb population growth.

On the other side of the discussion lies the contrarians. They, for the most part, are on the other side of the issue of environmentalism. It is clear that not all people considered contrarian totally disregard global environment issues. There are those that object to the other side's apocolyptic style view of the future of this planet. But, there are those that feel all these issues are lies.
One thing I found interesting about these contrarians is that the "political right-wingers", if you will, use thier thoughts and arguments to promote thier agendas and to try and deregulate environmental laws, promote privitization and bolster free market.

The authors in the article go through some strengths and weakness of the contrarian argument.
One of its contributions has been pointing out the anti-humanism, ecocentrism and racism within neo-Malthusian thought. This means that these people often care far more about environmental cocerns than human life and that people in third world countries and the poor in first world counties are the ones that need to stop procreating to help curb population growth. It goes along with the idea that nature is good and people are bad.

One of the critiques of the contrarian view is that they tend to present stereotypical environmentalists in thier arguments. These being the anti-humanists and Malthusians. They also tend to see them all as being left-wing liberals when in fact there are many conservative environemtnalists and liberals who dont give a shit about going green.
Another critisism of the contrarian is the tendency to be too damn optimisitic about worldviews and environmental outcomes. One going as far as to declare the end of pollution in our lifetime. Another saying that nuclear power will be a perfectly fine alternative energy source, because we can just dump the waste in the desert in Arizona. I can't imagine that being the least bit good to anyone.
The contrarians also have the tendency to be quite dichotomous in their thinking and solution finding. They argue ideas in very simplistic ways instead of really acknowleding the true complexity of the situation. It is always just people Vs. nature, growth vs. environment. Thier solutions seem to be limited. It is like we can only invest into one of two possible ideas for helping reduce global climate change or anything else. Lomborg argues that there is only so much money that could be used for these types of projects. The authors say that we could devest money from something useless like military funds and use that money to fund more environmental projects. There are probably a lot more things we could due away with and use the money to help support environmental problems.

Finding a middle ground in all of this would probably be a good place to stand. Being a doomsayer isnt going to get people to help support your cause and saying that the problem doesnt exist certainly isnt going to help, because in reality there is something there. The authors make is clear that this is a very complex set of problems that cannot really be reduced into simplistic terms and do it justice.

Anti-Environmentalism: Prometheans, Contrarians and Beyond

Bjorn Lomborg is a political scientist and statistician. In 2001 he published The Skeptical Environmentalist. In this paper, he writes that the main reason for people believing that the global environment is in such a bad state is that environmental groups have been exaggerating just how bad the environmental problems are. He also argued that on a global scale, the statistics on environmental trends is much less extreme than what these groups would have us believe.
White, et al discuss that there are four main groups that attempt to discount environmental movements. One is neo-classical economists. These people look at the environmental movements from an economical point of view. They argue that the problems that everyone claims are facing the environment are really not as bad as they say. They argue that being more environmentally friendly would cost too much money and would not help the economy. Lomborg fits into this group.

The next group is the skeptics of the Limits to Growth report. They use the argument that a computer model could not possibly predict human behavior or advances in technology. The Marxists thought the environmental groups were elitist. The new left is the final group. They would also argue for social ecology.

While some of these groups have some valid points, they do not have enough evidence to support their claims that the environment is not as bad as people are saying. It is pretty widely known by now that the environment is in trouble and that it will only get worse if we do not do something soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Eban Goodstein Hot Air

In the article by Eban Goodstein, "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalists Guide to Global Warming" by Bjorn Lomborg is evaluated closely. Lomborg has the attitude that global warming won't be that bad and by acting to reduce global warming pollution, we would slow economic growth. Goodstein states that Lomborg believes the Earth won't warm up more than 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit, that trying to "clean up" is too costly, and that $25 billion per year in clean energy technology should be spent to slow global warming slightly. This temperature change is a large enough change to affect a lot of environments. What if our planted warmed more than 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit? The IPCC suggests the Earth could warm up to 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit more. This is more than twice Lomborg's prediction.
Lomborg focuses mainly on a benefit-cost analysis that overlooks other aspects. The moderately warmer climate he predicts would ultimately affect the poor in the global South. These temperature changes could cause permafrost in the Arctic to melt, releasing methane, or if the Amazon dries too much and burns, billions of tons of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere.

More action to reduce these risks need to be taken so future generations don't suffer the consequences. Reducing emissions may actually help economic growth and increase global energy efficiency. Lomborg doesn't necessarily pay close attention to long term climate changes and damages. Clean energy technologies are important in cutting global warming pollution. One decade could reduce pollution between 10-20 percent. New investments could provide future generations with clean energy technologies, stable jobs and climate, and an overall sustainable future for Earth.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Taylor, "How Do We Know..."

According to Taylor, the purpose of his article is to propose a different interpretation of the relationship between environmental science and politics and how his interpretation could impact the reconstruction of environmental science-politics.

In a sentence Taylor answers the question of ‘how do we know we have global environmental problems’ by stating that “we know we have global environmental problems because science documents the existing situation and ever tightens its predictions or proposed scenarios of future changes.” He explains that science supplies knowledge necessary to stimulate and guide social-political action and makes three propositions as to how we know these problems exist on a global scale:
1.They are constructed as such by scientists and political actors.
2.In environmental discourse both the moral and technocratic views of social action emphasize environmental problems as unitary rather than differentiating between cultural and national interests and the politics that ensue.
3.They (environmental scientists, political actors, etc) do not know most people do not have problems of a global nature.

Taylor develops his propositions by reviewing system dynamics computer modeling of global environmental, resource and climatic systems citing The Limits to Growth (LTG) study of the 1970s, the subsequent Mankind at the Turning Point study. The undifferentiated SD model of the world proposes that undesirable cycles of exponential growth and collapse are inevitable unless the structure of the system as a whole is changed. In order for change to occur, everyone from the local to the global act together to change the structure of population and production growth.

The difficulty lies in the construction of environmental science and environmental problems which involve multiple, interacting causes that contribute to its vulnerability to deconstruction by numerous parties with different and often conflicting interests. Even more recent global climate research utilizes the same discourse as the LTG which is dominated by physical and natural sciences that emphasize social change as a response to environmental change, ignores the differentiated politics and economics of socio-economic change that would propose a different response.

Taylor gives examples of unpredicted outcomes, unintended conflicts and unlikely coalitions that result from this modeling citing desforestation in Senegal, development of the Gambia river basin and conservation in Kenya. The lesson from these examples would be for environmental scientists and activists to position themselves with the new coalitions and conflicts and work from there so that all social actors are engaged.

Modeling environmental problems as global ignores the diverse ways that different groups experience problems which shapes their actions. It displaces the responsibility of environmental problems as they are in the third world to their society without recognizing who made them most vulnerable in the first place.

Taylor: "How Do We Know We Have Global Environmental Problems?"

In “How do we know we have global environmental problems?” Taylor suggests a simple answer to this question: we have scientific evidence. He then points out that evidence is not good enough. Science is set up so a person can use science to question science. It allows for people to argue about methodologies and in doing so allows openings for policymakers to dodge unpopular decisions due to the necessary incompleteness of the science of environmentalists. Taylor argues that social dimensions, like politics, are deeply intermixed within the workings of environmental science. The way in which the science is created is a primary problem. There are many different factors such as, the topic chosen for research or the methodology can be heavily influenced by politics. For example, if someone wanted to do research on climate change and was funded by an oil company, that person would probably avoid pointing a finger at the corporation that funded them. Obviously, there are many motives for portraying environmental data in specific ways.


In studies such as the LTG, in which a program was used to model the world’s population, economy, and climate, and said that the system would end in a collapse, the program used lacked the structure to encompass local differentiation in social factors, such as resource distribution.
Unfortunately, the data resulting in studies like this fails to gain the support of the masses. This is because it is presented in a way that tries to unite people by suggesting that everyone has the same interests in the environment. The fact is that they do not. Because there are social classes and resources are unequally distributed, the most pressing immediate concern of a farmer is very different from that of a businessman, and both are radically different from the interests of environmental scientists.

A growing problem with the advocacy of global environmental policies is that the intended outcomes of, for example, deforestation in Africa end up in causing more harm to the local people than good. Not paying attention to local politics can cause harm to people, thereby turning them off from environmental policy and data altogether.

For the most part, I agree with Taylor’s view that without incorporating the social aspect with the hard science, you are missing out on the meat of the problem associated with environmental policies. Also, I really began to think about politics and how much they really do affect the decisions people make aside from environmental issues. For example, if you are an anthropologist doing ethnographic fieldwork in a different country and the country has given you permission to be there, you would probably try hard not to portray the country in a negative fashion for fear that they would kick you out. The politics of personal advantage play into science, despite the assertion by many of the sciences, natural and social, that they do pure empirical research. No matter what they say, science exists in society, and to divorce one from the other will simply result in ignorance of the relationships that exist whether you want them to or not. I also agree that instead of simply criticizing the scientific data, some sort of dialogue needs to develop between natural scientists and the social scientists, so they can identify some of the flaws in approaching this issue with the limited views that would result from ignorance of the other discipline. The environmental crisis is not only empirical, but also immensely social and political, and to pour our resources into the gathering of ‘empirical’ data to the exclusion of institutional analysis is misguided at best.

Monday, February 2, 2009

IPCC Summary for Policymakers - Urbanowski

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which that year shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore) released a summary report on the causes of climate change and its potential effects in the future. While our class as a whole is focusing on the overall impact of climate change, it's a good idea to look at the science behind these issues to give us a better idea of why these issues are so prevalent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is a good scientific introduction to these issues.
Let's begin with the causes of climate change. Carbon dioxide is considerably more prevalent now than it was in the pre-industrial period (379 parts per million in 2005, a 35% increase from pre-industrial times), and increased use of fossil fuels is seen as a leading cause of this increase. More profound, however, is the 148% increase in methane in 2005 versus the pre-industrial era.

After establishing that these increases have taken place, they then establish that the temperature of the earth is also increasing. "Eleven of the last twelve years (1995–2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature," the report says. Sea temperatures are also increasing, causing seawater to expand; this contributes to rising sea levels (as does the melting of glaciers near the poles). Sea levels expanded at a rate of 3.1 millimeters per year from 1993 to 2003.

In fairness, the report does show that increased agriculture and use of fossil fuels is responsible for higher levels of methane and CO2; however, its attempt to establish causality between these higher levels and the increase in temperatures is not as stellar. The report's use of terms such as 'likely' and 'unlikely' is not as convincing to me as the evidence they offer to make other claims. This does not mean that I disagree with it; however, there seems to be a lack of consistency in the presentation of their evidence from topic to topic.

In the future, according to the report, we can expect to see increases in the prevalence of greenhouse gases. This is 'likely' to cause the earth to get warmer in the future. Because of that, seas are expected to rise while wind patterns are expected to change. With much of the world continuing to develop industrially, we can expect these patterns to continue at a more rapid rate.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

IPCC: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change

In the report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), advancements have been made about how both human and nature affect climate change. Since the Third Assessment Report (TAR), there have been significant improvements in understanding climate change. By better understanding models and further complex data analysis, we can better comprehend climate change and better predict future patterns.
There have been significant changes in the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases and aerosols, for example, that have made it difficult to balance our climate system. Because society is so reliant on fossil fuels, there has been a global increase in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased from 280 ppm to 379 ppm since pre-Industrial Revolution era to 2005. More than 1/3 of nitrous oxide emissions are anthropogenic (caused by humans) due to agriculture. Overall, human activity has consequently created a warming global average since 1750.

With efficient balloon-borne data, satellite data, and improved ground based measurements, we can clearly observe the increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, melting ice, and sea levels. In fact, eleven of the past twelve years have been some of the warmest years on record as far as surface temperatures. Since the 1960’s, warmer temperatures have caused ocean depths to reach 3000 meters at a rate of approximately 3.1 mm per year between 1993 to 2003. Mountain glaciers and snow cover amounts have also decreased. Frozen ground in the Northern Hemisphere has declined by 7% in the last one hundred years.

Climate change has also resulted in altered precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns, droughts, heat waves, and more intense tropical storms. More precipitation has been observed in South America and Europe while dryer patterns were found in the Mediterranean and southern Asia. Precipitation and evaporation over the oceans have increased salinity in lower latitude regions.

Palaeoclimatic studies gather past climate changes from decades to millions of years ago in order to help explain other global patterns. An example the article uses is tree ring width. Local factors, such as precipitation amounts, may influence data results and must be taken into consideration. Therefore, results are not necessarily 100% accurate and may result in uncertain estimates in climate changes. However, these studies do increase the confidence in understanding our climate system. Palaeoclimatic information has shown the global warming patterns have been abnormal in the last 1,300 years. Warming of the troposphere and cooling of the stratosphere is likely due to greenhouse gas increases and ozone depletion. Humankind is likely to be a cause for changes in wind patterns that affect the more intense tropical storms we have seen in the past decade as well as the increase in heat waves. Water vapor changes also provide the largest feedback affecting the climate.

Future climate change may be better predicted with more models and additional observations. Thus far, it is predicted the next 20 years will result in an increase of 0.2 degrees Celsius in regards to greenhouse gas emissions and aerosols. Even if these levels were held constant, the overall temperature will still rise due to the slower response of the oceans. If they continue to increase as predicted, this could affect acidity levels in the oceans. Most of the predicted warming is expected in the Northern Hemisphere. Thaw depths are also expected to increase and oceanic ice is expected to shrink. Heat waves, heavy precipitation, and tropical storms may become more frequent and more intense. Interestingly, the Antarctic Ice Sheet will stay too cold for melting.