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EVSS 680 CofC Fall 2010. Case Studies of env Issues. Agenda. Survey Talk about papers Lecture/discussion End of Earth Days. Comparative History: Role of Environment (Diamond). Part I. Diamond, “The Last Americans” and Collapse.

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Evss 680 cofc fall 2010

EVSS 680


Fall 2010

Case Studies of env Issues


  • Survey

  • Talk about papers

  • Lecture/discussion

  • End of Earth Days

Diamond the last americans and collapse
Diamond, “The Last Americans” and Collapse

  • Diamond’s research compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbors, political institutions, and other "input" variables postulated to influence a society's stability and their likelihood to lead to decline/collapse or buildup

  • Thesis: Civilizations prosper and ultimately decline because of environmental conditions

  • Thesis of Collapse: All (but one) factor associated with rise and fall of civilization has to with population growth (and technology) vs. earth’s carrying capacity (or resources)

  • Population, deforestation, wealth, resource consumption, and waste production reach limits that outstrips resources leading to societal decline

Diamond factors contributing to past societal collapse
Diamond, Factors contributing to past Societal Collapse

8 Factors Contributing to Past Societal Decline/Collapse

  • Deforestation and Habitat Destruction

  • Soil Issues, including erosion and salinization

  • Water management

  • Overharvesting/Overfishing

  • Overhunting

  • Non-native species introductions

  • Population Growth

  • Increased affluence/consumption

    4 other ‘new’ factors may contribute to social decline (in future):

  • Climate change

  • Build up of environmental toxins and contaminants

  • Energy shortages

  • Utilization of earth’s photosynthetic capacity

Diamond misconceptions about environment
Diamond, Misconceptions about Environment

  • Must balance the environment against human needs: actually the reverse—we depend on the environment!

  • Can Trust technology to solve problems (GMOs, hydrogen, biofuels, etc)  ”all of our current enviroprobs are unanticipated harmful consequences of existing technology”

  • Environmentalists are fear-mongering, overreacting extremists—the problems we face are compounded by ignorance and arrogance (lack of history)

History of environmental problems globally mcneil something new under the sun
History of Environmental Problems—Globally(McNeil, Something New Under the Sun)

Part II

3 massive historical changes
3 Massive Historical Changes

Social Triumph at a Price:

  • Economic Growth

  • Population Growth

  • Energy Use (primarily driven by fossil fuels)

  • * technology as facilitator

Economic growth
Economic Growth

Per capita, the world economy has grown 120 fold since 1500; yet, individual (avg) income has grown only 9 fold.


  • 2 Costs of Energy Intensification:

    • 1. fossil fuel combustion generates pollution and GHGs

    • 2. fossil fuel use SHARPLY increased the inequities in wealth and power globally (McNeil, 15-6)

Global Energy Use in 1800: 250m (metric tons of oil equivalent)

Global Energy Use in 1900: 800m

Global Energy Use in 2000: 10,000m

3 marked results from 20 th century
3 Marked Results from 20th Century

1. Econ Growth: Exponential increased economic growth & living stnds (because of ↑ pop, ↑ tech)

2. Environmental Harm: Increases in widespread environmental degradation (from burning of fossil fuels for energy consumption & waste)

3. Inequality: Modern expansion, while liberating to many, brought severe inequality

Population environment video
Population & Environment Video

  • Population and Environment Video (5m)

  • Downsides to Economic Growth (Bill McKibben) (6+m)

Global policy solutions
Global Policy Solutions

  • Global Policy since 1950 (post WWII) has been an emphasis on:

    • 1. faster economic growth (“rising tide raises all boats”)

    • 2. raising standards of living

  • Elite powerbrokers/nations erected new politics, ideologies, and institutions predicated on this principle.

  • Harnessing fossil fuels played a central role in widening gap wealth & power


    • 1. More environmental degradation than any pt in history

    • 2. More inequality between humans than any pt in history

    • 3. More complexity to problems themselves

    • 4. Ideology that technology is part of “progress” that will save day; abstraction of nature

Mcneil epilogue
McNeil, Epilogue

  • “human history since the dawn of agriculture is replete with unsustainable societies, some of which vanished but many of which changed their ways and survived. They changed not to sustainability but to some new and different kind of unsustainability. Perhaps, we can as it were, pile on unsustainable regime upon another indefinitely, making adjustments large and small but avoid collapse…most societies, and all the big ones, sought to maximize their current formidability and wealth at the risk of sacrificing ecological buffers and tomorrow’s resilience.”


  • “with our new powers we banished some historical constraints on health and population, food production, energy use and consumption generally…but in banishing them we invited other constraints in the form of the planet’s capacity to absorb wastes, by-products, and impacts of our actions…Our negotiations with these constraints will shape the future as our struggles against them shaped our past.” (p 362).

Jamieson an american paradox
Jamieson, ‘An American Paradox’

  • Conclusion: While many Americans consider themselves “environmentalists”, they show “little willingness to voluntarily restrain their behavior or to support specific fiscal policies that would result in increased levels of environmental protection”

  • Why??

  • How important are incentives?

  • Trust?

  • Problems too complex? Too Interconnected?

  • Berry/White: Wrong relationship to nature?

Climate change q1
Climate Change Q1

  • You may have heard about the idea that the world's temperature may have been going up slowly over the past 100 years. What is your personal opinion on this - do you think this has probably been happening, or do you think it probably has not been happening?

  • Probably been happening 75

  • Probably not been happening 22

  • Don’t know (DO NOT READ) 3

Climate change q2
Climate Change Q2

  • How sure are you that the world's temperature (has/has not) been going up?

    Total Extremely/Very Sure 44

  • Extremely sure 19

  • Very sure 25

    Total Somewhat/Not Sure At All 55

  • Somewhat sure 37

  • Not sure at all 18

Climate change q3
Climate change Q3

  • Do you think a rise in the world’s temperature is being caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes?

  • Things People Do 30

  • Natural Causes 28

  • Both Equally 40

  • Don’t know (DO NOT READ) 2

  • Refused (DO NOT READ) 1

American enviro values survey
American Enviro Values Survey

  • 1. Americans’ environmental concerns are divergent and polarized.

  • 2. Libertarian values are ascendant over communal values.

  • 3. Issue complexity has paralyzed many Americans.

  • 4. Men and women have some very different environmental concerns.

  • 5. Environmentalism is hampered by anti-science attitudes.

  • 6. Indifference is a major factor among some groups of Americans.

  • 7. Competing priorities affect all groups of Americans.

  • 8. There are three major environmental issue groupings among Americans.

  • 9. The pocketbook is the most powerful leverage point for changing personal behavior.

  • 10. Environmental responsibility is getting more personal.

  • 11. Environmentalism and environmentalists have an image problem.

Now most pressing problems
Now: Most Pressing Problems

  • Economy / financial crisis / banking crisis36

  • Unemployment / jobs 14

  • Health care / uninsured / health insurance costs 13

  • Government / corrupt politicians / bad politicians / political division / inefficiency 6

  • War in Iraq / War in Afghanistan / The war / The wars 5

  • Deficit / debt / government spending / balanced budget 5

  • Morals/values/religion/lack of belief/straying from principles or Constitution 4

  • Socialism / liberalism / liberal government / liberal President / liberal Congress 4

  • Peace / war (general) 2

  • Education 2

  • Poverty / hunger / homelessness / lack of housing 1

  • Terrorism 1

  • Global warming / climate change / greenhouse effect 1

  • Environment/pollution/air pollution/water pollution/damaging the land 1

  • Energy resource depletion / running out of oil/energy independence 1

Future most serious problem
Future: Most Serious Problem

What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?

  • Economy / financial crisis 16

  • Global warming / climate change / greenhouse effect 11

  • Peace / war (general) 7

  • Environment/pollution/air & water pollution/damaging the land 7

  • Poverty / hunger / homelessness / lack of housing 6

  • Terrorism 6

  • Unemployment / jobs 4

  • Health care / uninsured / health insurance costs 4

  • Crime / violence / drugs--unless talking about gen. immorality 4

  • Energy resource depletion / running out of oil / energy indep3

Unsustainable stats
Unsustainable Stats

  • Water - by 2025, 1.6 billion people will live in countries with absolute water scarcity; 440 million school days are already missed every year because of diarrheal diseases.

  • • Land use - modern agriculture exploits land more intensively than it has in the past. In 1987, a hectare of cropland yielded on average 1.8 tons of crops, today the same hectare produces 2.5 tons. This increased productivity comes at a cost - overexploited land is degraded and becomes less productive.

  • • Fish - 2.6 billion people rely on fish for more than 20% of their animal protein intake, yet as the intensity of fishing increases, the biodiversity of the ocean and the ocean's capacity to produce more fish decreases.

  • • Air - more than 2 million people die each year because of indoor and outdoor pollution.

Youtube vids

  • E2 Series

  • Story of Stuff--Consumption

Unsustainable consumption
Unsustainable Consumption

  • Ecol Footprint: The total world ecological footprint is 2.6 global hectares per capita. The ecological reserve, or biocapacity – the amount of land available for production, is 1.8 global hectares per person, a deficit of 0.8 global hectares per capita

  • Pop Growth: Almost 6.9b today, estimated to reach 10b by 2050. We add 1/3 of the US population to earth every yr.

Ecological footprint
Ecological Footprint

Ef = Hectares Affected per capita



  • Nearly ½ World’s population will experience water shortages by 2025

What is unsustainable
What is Unsustainable??

  • Environment – Air and Water Pollution

  • Poverty

  • Inequality

  • Disease (AIDS, Malaria, Dengue, etc)

  • Food/Agriculture

  • Water

  • Economic Development

  • Fisheries

  • Forests

  • Energy

  • Climate

  • Health

  • Biodiversity

  • Ecosystems

Limits to growth meadows meadows randers behrens
“Limits to Growth”Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens

1972 Projections: Limits

2004 Projections: Limits

3 conclusions from limits to growth
3 Conclusions from “Limits to Growth”

  • 1. If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next 100 years (from 1972)

  • 2. It’s possible to alter these growth trends and to establish a condition of ecological and econ stability that is sustainable. The state of global equilibrium could be designed to meet basic material needs of each person on earth

  • 3. If the world decides to strive for this 2nd outcome, the sooner they begin working to attain it, the greater the chances of success

Ps incommensurable paradigms values and environment
PS--Incommensurable Paradigms: Values and Environment

  • Trade-off theory: env quality comes at the expense of other goods. Sacrifice is necessary

  • Anti-Industrialism v. Industrial Alternatives

  • Need to develop “critical, democratic politics of technology within and not against the project of modernity”

  • Technology can help switch the constraints on behavior—to mitigate the sacrifice required.

  • Progress is not reducible to a succession of rational choices because the criteria of rationality are also in flux.

Ps incommensurable paradigms
PS—Incommensurable Paradigms

  • Why are enviro values included as “values” opposing the economy?

  • Because civilization was constructed by those indifferent to the environment—enviro values arose to impose restrictions on econ/develop

  • Environmentalism is like child-labor, in that it will become part of our moral and technological code that “old options fade”

  • Technology revolutions are a paradigm shift, and environmental values are part of the economic and technological arrangements of society.

Hawken ecology of commerce 1993
Hawken, Ecology of Commerce (1993)

  • Thesis: Biosphere is being destroyed by our industrial society and economic system, but same elements that destroy the biosphere—markets and gov’ts, are the solution (if can replace “greed”)

  • “I have come to believe that we in America and in the rest of the industrialized West do not know what business really is, or, therefore, what it can become.” (p1)

  • "The promise of business is to increase the general well-being of humankind through service, a creative invention and ethical philosophy. Making money is, on its own terms, totally meaningless, an insufficient pursuit for the complex and decaying world we live in. We have reached an unsettling and portentous turning pt in industrial civilization.” (p1)

  • The current economic system is not "the inherent nature of business, nor the inevitable outcome of a free-market system. It is merely the result of the present commercial system's design and use."

Ecology vs commerce
Ecology vs Commerce

  • “there is no polite way to say that business is destroying the world.” (p3)

  • An oxymoron that speaks to the gap between how earth lives and how we now conduct our commercial lives.

  • “We don’t think of ecology and commerce as compatible subjects. While much of our current environmental policy seek a ‘balance’ between the needs of business and the needs of environment, common sense says there is only one critical balance and one set of needs: the dynamic, ever-changing interplay of the forces of life” (p3)

  • Ecology of commerce is the unity of them into “one sustainable act of production and distribution that mimics and enhances natural processes” (p3)

What we need to do
What we Need to Do

  • “Constructive changes in our relationship to the environment have thus far been thwarted because business is not properly designed to adapt to the situation we face.” (p5)

  • “having expropriated resources from the natural world in order to fuel a rather transient period of materialistic freedom, we must now restore no small measure of those resources and accept the limits and discipline inherent in that relationship. Until business does that, it will continue to be maladaptive and predatory.” (p6)

  • Today, the liner process of industrialization creates massive amts of waste and its grossly inefficient, resulting a decayed earth.

  • “the economics of restoration is the opposite of industrialization. Industrial economics separated production processes from the land, the land from people, and, ultimately, economic values from personal values…in a restorative economy, viability is determined by the ability to integrate with or replicate cyclical systems, in its means of production and distribution (p11).

Birth of death
Birth of Death

  • Biodiversity loss is massive and widespread  “Every natural system in the world today is in decline.” (p22)

  • Human systems exceeding carrying capacity (p24-6)

  • Econ System = “immature” system

  • “immature system” = aggressive & invasive weeds take over space…wasting energy, undermining diversity, with plants of lower quality and usefulness (p. 19)

  • Mature system = evolution from “growth” to high efficiency and resource-conserving  “climax systems comprise an assoc of organisms that reach a state of equilibrium which leaves the habitat largely unchanged…they are more diverse, stable and complex communities, and are thus more resilient.”

  • David Wann: “the present American culture is still the bare field full of colonizing weeds, struggling toward something more sophisticated, interwoven and permanent. Until now, we’ve consistently chose the resource-hungry path of least resistance. (p20-1).

  • “Because richer northern countries do not see or experience the impact they have on their poorer southern nations, we do not realize what a powerful and destructive impact our demand on carrying capacity is having.” (p26)

Hawken berry
Hawken - Berry

  • Book of Genesis “dominion over the planet and all creatures” justifies this exploitative evolution.

  • Hawken: “wrong and disingenuous” b/c ignores 5 previous extinctions (by natural causes) whereas this one is by our species.”

  • “Human activity is part of the natural world, in the largest sense, but human activity ignores the means-and-ends, give-and-take factors that are inherent in any maturing ecosystem.”

Hawken s 8 elements to solve enviro crisis
Hawken’s 8 Elements to Solve Enviro Crisis

  • Reduce energy/resource consumption by 80% in next half century

  • Secure, productive employment for all

  • "Be self-actuating as opposed to regulated or morally mandated.”

  • Honor market principles

  • Be more rewarding (than our present way of life)

  • Exceed sustainability by restoring degraded habitats and ecosystems to their fullest biological capacity.”

  • Rely on current income

  • “Be fun and engaging, and strive for an aesthetic outcome."