This Sustainable Life

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176: The folly of chasing efficiency

Ep. 176

Silicon Valley, governments, and lots of people are pushing for efficiency. I do too, but only after changing systemic beliefs and goals.

The greatest cause of global warming would have looked like the greenest clean energy innovation ever: the Watt steam engine. It led to our environmental problems today more than anything else.

We'd be fools to think today's green clean energy will do any different. Changing beliefs and goals will create results, not ignorantly continuing the patterns that got us here, thinking we're different.

Efficiency is different than reducing total waste. An LED will never compete with simply turning off the light. If you thought, but the light enables things, that belief, especially if you reflexively believe that the alternative to technology is the stone age, is the cause of global warming and our other environmental problems because it drives continuing the behavior that got us here.

What I'm saying won't change that belief. In my experience few things change belief, rarely facts, figures, doom, gloom, guilt, shame. Definitely not continuing what you're doing. What does? New experiences and community.

I'm not going to get into leadership and what influences motivations, emotions, beliefs, and behavior, but I'll tell you that if we don't change our behavior and beliefs, if we could magically return CO2 levels to pre-industrial revolution, we'd be back here pretty quickly.

And our behavior for centuries has been to make things more efficient, ignoring total waste, which we've increased. Almost nobody wants to consider consuming and producing less, despite reduce, reuse, recycle starting with reduce.

Folks, when people say that not acting now means we'll have to act more later to keep the earth able to maintain a population and society something like ours, they mean it. And people have been saying that for generations. If you believe efficiency only will make a difference, you aren't changing at all. You're doing exactly what got us here.

Change would be to reduce.


Here's one of the papers I alluded to. Quoting the paper:

we find that higher energy efficiency increased rather than reduced energy use, because lower capital cost enhanced energy use by more than the increase in energy cost reduced it. This casts strong doubts on the view that energy-saving technological change has lowered fossil energy use.

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I learned of Blake through the mailing list of the maker of my rowing machine, Concept2. Their piece on him described him as a Paralympic bound athlete. I was impressed, but only thought of him as a potential guest on watching his TEDx talk.I think my message to his agent describes what I saw in him and when we talked about in this episode:In Blake's case, I heard a message I've never heard with such clarity and experience I wonder if he realizes how much it applies to stewardship and the environment. It's almost the exact message nearly everyone needs. I can't put it as well as he can, but what he shared starting around minute 3 of his TEDx talk of a system breaking down, where most people would be ready to give up, technology being important, but relationships, faith, support, and laughter being the core of what worked.I see roughly 350 million Americans and 7.9 billion humans ready to give in and accept a system breaking down. Then I see Blake living the opposite of their resignation leading to a better life, and there's been almost a decade since leading to what I read as yet more improvement.In my book coming out next year, I quote Churchill's speeches during the blitz -- that it's bad, it will get worse, but we will fight on the beaches, we will never surrender, it will be our finest hour. I heard in Blake's message from a decade ago what America and the world would benefit most from hearing today. I expect it's stronger today.Since he also just won a silver medal, I also ask him about the training and competing.Blake's TEDx talk, The Advantage of Adversity
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518: Killing cities, gardens, and parks, New York's cruel "Open Restaurants" overreach

Ep. 518
Don't outdoor restaurants sound nice? During the pandemic, New York City allowed restaurants that couldn't host people indoors to serve them outdoors. Many restaurant owners credit the rule for keeping them in business. We neighbors happily supported businesses in need.The landlords saw the huge profit in keeping this public space for their private property, started raising rents---profiting from a deadly pandemic---and tried to get politicians to give them that public land permanently.I might not mind if that space were coming from just car spaces, or if restaurants weren't polluting the area so much with plastic, burning fossil fuels to heat the outdoors while California is on fire, other packaging, and noise.There is a better alternative that no one thought of because we didn't know the city was willing to convert space from parking spaces and open sidewalk. We could turn it to living green spaces: community gardens, playgrounds, farmers markets, bike lanes, public pedestrian spaces, and such. There was already huge demand for such spaces. People wait years for plots in the tiny spaces we have. But search the web for "Manhattan community gardens" and you'll find almost nothing, especially around Greenwich Village.This program is already raising rents, making new restaurants harder to start. It helps a few individuals while hurting the industry it purports to help.Those who know New York City's history will see this land grab from the public on par with the failed Lower Manhattan Expressway. People organized to protect what became global destinations: Soho, Nolita, Tribeca, the Lower East Side.If you have influence with New York City politics, end this program of pollution and destruction.See images and videos I made of what Open Restaurants contributes to:https://joshuaspodek.com/another-morning-walk-seeing-litter-in-my-neighborhoodhttps://joshuaspodek.com/pride-destroyed-the-park-washington-square-park-after-a-parade (video and pictures)https://joshuaspodek.com/video-whats-wrong-with-new-york-city (video and pictures)