Reconciling assholes for nearly a decade.

Has the state of the environment improved in the last 50 years?

From http://reason.com/blog/show/121522.html

Answer: Ummm...  no.

Next!
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 12:29pm
You really think the answer is no? I'd really heavily lean the other way.
Permalink DF 
July 27th, 2007 12:44pm
Why yes, yes it has.

Rachael Carson wrote in 1970 or so about "The Silent Spring", when the birds would all be killed due to the action of DDT on their egg-shells.

The response to this spawned the modern Environmental Movement, which had notable successes in the 1970's (CAFE standards for cars, the Clean Water and Clean Air act, the banning of DDT in America).

So, some improvements WERE made in that time.  Oh, and the banning of Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons was done to prevent further damage to the Ozone layer, and the Ozone Hole in the Antiarctic has been reduced in size since then.

So yes, the state of the environment improved through the 1970's, and even the 1980's and 90's. 

Now, since Bush-II has come in, some legislation has been 'rolled back' a bit.  Coal-Fired power plants are being approved again, additional trees put to the saw, some clean water regulations have been rolled back.  Still, I think the Erie Great Lake now has fish in it, again, so yes, some things have improved in the last 50 years.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 12:48pm
The reason I say no, is this:

Do we have more rainforest now than 50 years ago?  No.

Less plastics clogging the oceans?  No.

Less toxic waste?  No.

More fish?  Wildlife?  No.

Less smog, etc?  In some areas yes but over all no.

More ozone?  No.

"So yes, the state of the environment improved through the 1970's, and even the 1980's and 90's."

I'm not saying that *we* haven't improved but the entire environment overall isn't better than it was 50 years ago.  And in some areas it might be better than 10 years ago but the entire planet isn't better than it was 10 years ago.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 1:02pm
I question your figures (which don't exist, so why I bother to question them, I don't know, but here goes anyway).

Less Rainforest -- true.

Amount of plastic "clogging the ocean" -- well, the ocean isn't "clogged", drains are "clogged", and the ocean doesn't HAVE a drain.  You COULD 'clog' a water body by filling it up with plastic, but that's not the case with our oceans.  I don't think you have any figures for 1957 ocean plastic content, nor for 2007 ocean plastic content, so I think this one's bogus.

Less smog -- absolutely we have less smog now than in 1968.  Apparently you hadn't heard of the London "week without sun".

Less toxic waste -- how do you know?

More fish? -- OK, that's a fair cop, we have fewer fish.  Nobody's done much about over-fishing in the last 20 years or so.

More ozone? -- Yes, we do have more ozone.  Well, ok, that depends on what date you start at.  We have more ozone in the stratosphere than we did in the 1980's.

Mind you, the quickest way to improve the environment is to get rid of the humans, since we DO insist on eating, breathing, defecating, and using earth's resources to do useful things -- like breeding MORE humans.  So be careful what you wish for, because *I* personally think keeping the humans around is the first requirement.  THEN we need to be good stewards of the Earth.  Which I agree we could do better, but I also think we could have done MUCH worse.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 1:10pm
I'd say yes.

I it was "in last 200 years" - definitely no.

my 2 cents.
Permalink O^O 
July 27th, 2007 1:12pm
One additional wrinkle -- You haven't said "Compared to what?"

Has the environment been as damaged as it could have been with completely unbridled Capitalism?  Definitely not.

Has the environment been improved since the Environmental Movement was created?  Definititely it has.

Would the environment be much better if humans weren't here?  Maybe, maybe not, good stewardship makes a difference, but I'm not volunteering to leave any time soon.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 1:16pm
"well, the ocean isn't 'clogged'"

Oh don't be so pedantic, you know what I mean.

"Less smog -- absolutely we have less smog now than in 1968."

Well if you mean "we" as talking about the "west" then I agree.  But how much smog has increased around the world?  China?  Are you absolutely sure that number is smaller now than in 1968?

"Less toxic waste -- how do you know?"

That stuff doesn't go away and we keep producing it.  It's not like we're shooting it into the sun!

The same is true of plastic, garbage, etc.  Thankfully, we're starting to recycle things now that haven't been recycled before.  But in 1968 we didn't have to worry about polluting third-world countries with mountains of all computer parts.

"Well, ok, that depends on what date you start at."

How about we try 50 years ago, like the question asks.

"We have more ozone in the stratosphere than we did in the 1980's."

Agreed!

"Mind you, the quickest way to improve the environment is to get rid of the humans"

Agreed.  Which is probably way the environment hasn't improved in the last 50 years and might not improve in next 100. 

"So be careful what you wish for, because *I* personally think keeping the humans around is the first requirement."

Fair enough, I never claimed otherwise.  I'm just answering the question.  Has the environment improved in the last 50 years?  No.  "Should we kill off all the humans to improve the environment?" is a completely different question.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 1:21pm
UK: great stink of 1858 (not a typo!), pea soupers, the great smog of 1952, the Thames 40 years ago...

USA: OSHA, EPA, Clean Air Act, etc.

And the same pattern in pretty much **ALL** developed countries.

The environment is MASSIVELY better in the developed world.

In the former Communist world, you have the same pattern for those parts that have joined the EU (massive improvements in environment), or in Russia etc. improvements because the factories simply are producing less, not turning out tanks 247, and there is some accountability in the government.

So where is there a problem?

Answer: The Third World.

Visit Delhi or Beijing, and you'll see (and breathe) the problem.  Or think about the Brazilian rainforest.

The problem is mainly because these countries are developing.

There are two answers to this:

Answer A: The enviro-weanie answer - they should stop developing.... well good luck with that one... short of us bombing these countries back to the stone age, it ain't going to happen.

Answer B: They need to develop more, and as they develop more, things like better environmental regulations will gradually become a priority in those countries.


Don't forget that when we tell third world countries to stop cutting down forests... they aren't doing anything that we didn't do in Europe or North America a few hundred years ago (at the time of the Romans, even Britain was mostly forested).
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 1:21pm
"Answer: The Third World."

It's not simply because they are developing countries -- we push a lot of our issues onto the third world so that western world is cleaner.  Sure, we have less smog but the third world is manufacturing goods for us!  Where do we send our old computer parts to rot?  The third world.

"Don't forget that when we tell third world countries to stop cutting down forests... they aren't doing anything that we didn't do in Europe or North America a few hundred years ago"

The scale isn't quite the same.  If they're mowing down a forest, the wood isn't just destined for their backyard, it's also destined for ours.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 1:33pm
In the past to create the ships you needed to cut lots of good wood. Imagine hundreds of ships, or even thousands of them, and how many trees were cut to create them. :-)

Nowadays it's all based on steel, aluminum, plastic, oil, water, but it comes from underneath the ground, so most folks can't tell. But the quantity nowadays trumps anything the past could have caused.

Let's see:

* above the ground depletion? Check!
* below the ground depletion? Check!
* sea depletion? Check!
* air depletion? Check!
* nobody is in charge? Check!

China is huge in wood exportation nowadays as well. China is huge in so many things, and it's just 1/6 of the people of the world.
Permalink Oy- 
July 27th, 2007 1:40pm
> It's not simply because they are developing countries -- we push a lot of our issues onto the third world so that western world is cleaner.  Sure, we have less smog but the third world is manufacturing goods for us!  Where do we send our old computer parts to rot?  The third world.


The reason we dump old computers in India, and old oil tankers in Bangladesh IS BECAUSE THEY ARE DEVELOPING.

They are so desperate for business that they accept all our crap.  In Bangladesh, supertankers get ripped to pieces by hand because it is profitable to do so (and they actually want to re-use bits of them).  In India, the same thing happens to computers.  Yes there are few controls about safety, pollution, or dumping waste materials - but that is precisely BECAUSE THEY ARE DEVELOPING countries. 

The reason that we don't send old computers to Holland, or old ships to Britain (all the last was tried - but failed when some ex-US Navy ships were found to contain asbestos) is because it is uneconomic to do so. Labour is expensive. Regulations are strict.  Public reaction is strong.

If these third world countries were purely agricultural nations, then we wouldn't be sending them our crap, because they simply wouldn't want.

If these countries were already developed, then we wouldn't send them crap for the  same reasons that Holland or Britain won't accept this crap.

But in any case, us sending crap is pretty much incidental.  Most pollution in third world countries is caused by their domestic industries and domestic systems.

Go to Delhi (which has gotten really bad in last 10 or so years), Beijing or Mexico City. The air stinks, burns your lungs and hurts your eyes, because they are burning low quality fuels in their own industries, homes, and transportation.





>> "Don't forget that when we tell third world countries to stop cutting down forests... they aren't doing anything that we didn't do in Europe or North America a few hundred years ago"

> The scale isn't quite the same.  If they're mowing down a forest, the wood isn't just destined for their backyard, it's also destined for ours.

The scale is EXACTLY the same. The whole of Western Europe - Britain, France, Germany, and more (except maybe Italy) was covered with trees at the time of the Romans.  Now there are only small forested areas left.

In any case, the main reason why forests were cut down in Europe, are now being cut down in the third world, is not primarily to do with wood.  It's to gain AGRICULTURAL LAND.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 2:25pm
>>> I don't think you have any figures for 1957 ocean plastic content, nor for 2007 ocean plastic content, so I think this one's bogus.

Wayne already replied, but yeah, jeez, pedantic much?  I don't know if anyone has figures for either year, but there's clearly a lot now, e.g. http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Moore-Trashed-PacificNov03.htm
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 27th, 2007 2:29pm
"The reason we dump old computers in India, and old oil tankers in Bangladesh IS BECAUSE THEY ARE DEVELOPING."

And when there are finally no more developing countries, where are we going to put all our crap?  I'm not sure your caps-locked-for-emphasis really changes anything.

"It's to gain AGRICULTURAL LAND."

That's true.  I was making a simplified point -- you're nitpicking details that don't change the fundamental point.  The western world might be cleaner but the entire world isn't  -- we've just pushed our bigger problems and our consumption issues onto the developing world.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 2:32pm
Well, sorry to be pedantic Ward, but if emotional pictures of dead albatrosses substitutes for rational debate, then I guess you win.

Yup, that's a dead albatross carcass full of plastic, so I guess you've proven that our oceans are "clogged" with plastic now, and were completely pristeen in 1957.  Wow, what a debater.

Guess I'll have to support invading Iraq now, since Bush has similarly "proven" they've got WMD's in Iraq with his picture of the Yellow Cake memo.  Way to go, dude.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 2:40pm
> And when there are finally no more developing countries, where are we going to put all our crap?  I'm not sure your caps-locked-for-emphasis really changes anything.

It's not that we're incapable of cleaning up in the West.

It's just that we don't want, because it costs more to do it that way, and the 3rd world likes to process some of our crap because it's profitable for them.

> That's true.  I was making a simplified point -- you're nitpicking details that don't change the fundamental point.  The western world might be cleaner but the entire world isn't  -- we've just pushed our bigger problems and our consumption issues onto the developing world.

Now your mouth is spewing crap.

Most of the pollution in third world countries is caused by their domestic activites.  Not because of things that we're doing, but because of things that they're doing.  You seem incapable of grasping the fact people in third world countries are capable of making their own choices, doing things for themselves, and wanting a good standard of living.

To a fat Westerner, it's easy to talk about over-development and over-consumption.  Go spend any amount of time in the third world, and it's obvious that their problem is not enough development, not too much - and it's also obvious that they want more development.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 2:44pm
Watch out:

"China has tried to crack down on illegal logging at home, after water rushing down the steep, deforested slopes of Tibet and Sichuan contributed to floods along the Yangtze in 1998."
* http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?alias=china-urges-responsible-l&chanId=sa003&modsrc=reuters

Any developed countries suffering with floods raise a hand? As always, that's just the visible part of it.
Permalink Oy- 
July 27th, 2007 2:44pm
Funny you should say that -- Great Britain has just suffered through a humongous flood, and parts of California are washing into the valleys.

So it's not just the Developing World that has these troubles.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 2:47pm
Yes, you've proven your keen debating skills: Wayne used hyperbole, so you can keep repeating the word "clogged" as if he meant it literally.

Although your response seems to indicate you're unwilling or unable to read, here's a more detailed report:

http://oceans.greenpeace.org/raw/content/en/documents-reports/plastic_ocean_report.pdf

Oh, and good parallelism with invading Iraq - I totally missed that if you don't win this argument, you'll have to agree that that was a good idea.
Permalink Send private email Ward 
July 27th, 2007 2:48pm
Sorry, Ward, I'm not usually this Doctrinaire.

The entire OP has hit me wrong.  First of all, this is F-ing America.  We can talk about anything here.  So a list of "Forbidden Topics" is an oxy-moron here.

Second of all, who the hell cares about the question "has the state of the environment improved" or not?  If you answer Yes -- yahoo, environmentalism is not a total waste.  If you answer No -- oh, boo hoo, environmentalism is a pointless thing and the third world is going to eat our lunch.

Neither answer addresses that our current President won't even participate in the most trivial exercise of restraint, that the current administration keeps re-defining terms in order to give away forests and oil leases to their cronies, that the current administration has WEAKENED environmental laws.

Also, we're not about to go to war with China or the Third World because they pollute. 

So fine -- make your hand-waving arguments that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.  If it makes you feel better, I don't disagree with that.  If your data is bogus and 'proves' nothing of the sort, and you don't care that's the case because you FEEL so strongly that you're correct, well go for it.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 2:55pm
It depends on the definition of improved.

What state are we shooting for?

It is a moving target based on your definition of the ideal state.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 27th, 2007 2:59pm
It's one of those optimism/pessimism debates (see the idiotic "there's a lot of bad stories here because the world is a scarier place!" shit on Reddit. Kids always think they're living through the darkest of times, facing the greatest challenges mankind has ever faced).

I think we're far cleaner than we used to be. Could we be cleaner? Absolutely.

The developing world is going through exactly what we went through, and already China is quickly cleaning up their act (once you've got the basics taken care of, suddenly having clean air and water becomes important). The "we're dumping on them!" meme is just bullshit (it's as much bullshit as the whole "stop globalization from turning the developing world into slaves!" from a decade ago. Now China has a hugely improving quality of life, and now features many of the world's biggest businesses...slaves indeed).
Permalink DF 
July 27th, 2007 3:00pm
Take underground plumbing for example... It makes our environment different. I think having running water everywhere would be a pretty good thing. But I am betting some would not find this fitting into their definition of the ideal environment.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 27th, 2007 3:01pm
"First of all, this is F-ing America.  We can talk about anything here."

*You* can talk about anything but many of these topics would be taboo to discuss, lets say, on television.  After 9/11 several shows (like Politically Incorrect) were outright canceled for merely discussing unpopular views.  F-ing America indeed.

"Second of all, who the hell cares about the question "has the state of the environment improved" or not?"

The question is more important than the answer.  If the environment hasn't improved, then what are we not doing.  If the environment has improved we're on the right track.  It doesn't have to be as pessimistic as you make it out to be.

"Neither answer addresses that our current President..."

Get your head out of your ass, not everything needs to be about fucking America or George fucking Bush to be of significance.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 3:13pm
Loot globally, pollute locally.
Permalink strawdog soubriquet 
July 27th, 2007 3:22pm
"The developing world is going through exactly what we went through, and already China is quickly cleaning up their act"

It's partly because most Chinese are still farmers. Even the current Chinese government officials are not nice fellows, they know it's going to be a big problem if the farmers lose their livelihood.
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 27th, 2007 3:36pm
> *You* can talk about anything but many of these topics would be taboo to discuss, lets say, on television.  After 9/11 several shows (like Politically Incorrect) were outright canceled for merely discussing unpopular views.  F-ing America indeed.

Free speech means you can talk about whatever the fuck you like. It doesn't that corporations (or anybody else) has to give you a venue to disseminate your views.

I'm sure you'd be the first to point that if there was a TV program that offended your sensibilities.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 5:30pm
Huh!  Maybe we DO need the Fairness Doctrine back again!
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 27th, 2007 6:08pm
"Free speech means..."

...blah blah blah.  This has *nothing* to do with free speech.  It's a list of "lists a number of taboo ideas that have been soundly denounced by various people"

These ideas are shunned.  It's not really the media corporation preventing the discussion of these topics -- they don't actually give it shit.  It's regular American's who feel that some ideas should not be discussed that force corporations to make those kinds of decisions.

The idea that got the show 'Politically Incorrect' canceled was no more outrageous than any of these: Staying in an airplane when it hits a building is not 'cowardly'.  That's it.  That's the dangerous idea.  Americans should feel free to call suicide bombers 'cowardly' without dissent!
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 7:12pm
WTF are you complaining about then?

You now agree that you (and Bill Mahler) can talk about whatever the fuck you/he want(s)... but that people don't have to listen.  That's exactly the way it should be.

In the case of TV, if you produce a program that offends your audience or advertisers, you'll get cancelled. Big fucking deal.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 7:23pm
"In the case of TV, if you produce a program that offends your audience or advertisers, you'll get cancelled."

But we're not talking about offensive material here, we're just talking about ideas.  Simple ideas.  Even *correct* ideas.  And American's, in general, sit their with the fingers in their ears chanting away to keep from hearing them.

What's the point of having free speech if you're afraid to use it?
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 7:29pm
So, according to you, is his free speech being surpressed or not?


Look, it's pretty simple, Mahler can say whatever he wants.

But, the TV network can also say what it wants. That includes not being compelled to carry his program.

The example you've chosen is particular bad, because the same ideas that Mahler expressed have been expressed widely, in newspapers, and no doubt on TV too.  The ideas themselves are certainly not taboo.  Mahler's mistake was picking the wrong time and venue to express those ideas.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 8:12pm
"So, according to you, is his free speech being surpressed or not?"

This isn't about free speech, it's about subjects that are Taboo.  SaveTheHubble is the one that confused the two.  They aren't the same thing.

So lets clarify this again: It's not a free speech issue.  It's a "these subjects offend our sensibilities so we won't discuss them" issue.  Not the same thing.  In a forum like CrazyOnTap, we have a free flow of ideas but in the American public sphere that just isn't the case. 

"Mahler's mistake was picking the wrong time and venue to express those ideas."

The venue was right and it's sad that there *is* even a wrong time to contradict blind rhetoric spewed by politicians and media.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 8:50pm
3,000 people had just died, and the nation had suffered a profound blow to its psyche. You're a moron if you don't think that makes a huge difference.

The timing was all wrong.  It's the same sort of issue as if I started lecturing about gay rights at my grandfather's funeral.

The venue was all wrong. His was a light-hearted program, and a light-hearted style to the remarks. Maybe those particular remarks were meant seriously, but that's where his program was coming from.  And, it's sort of issue as not telling inappropriate jokes at a funeral (I'll tell geisha/golf joke on cot or with buddies, but not when talking about my grandfather's love of golf during his funeral eulogy).

Don't tell me the underlying ideas about suicide bombers not being cowards haven't been expressed.  They have. Usually in print: there's been plenty of serious articles about the causes and motivations of suicide bombing, even in national newspapers.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 9:12pm
You point is the issue was taboo, my point is the issue was taboo.  Case closed.  We agree.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 9:15pm
And, s, you've effectively proved that SaveTheHubble's idea that there aren't any "Forbidden* Topics" in America is bull. 


* Let me remind you we're talking about forbidden topics, not illegal ones, before you start ranting about free speech again.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 9:20pm
Taboo means you can't talk about it all.

It doesn't mean that in the wrong circumstances, it's inappropriate to talk about it.
Permalink s 
July 27th, 2007 9:26pm
Taboo means improper or unacceptable to society.

I'm sure that some of the things on that list of topics could get someone fired for merely asking the question.  And some might just end you up in an awkward situation.
Permalink Send private email Wayne 
July 27th, 2007 9:40pm
Actually, I just notice there is an original article:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/469317,CST-CONT-danger15.article
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 27th, 2007 10:05pm
Starting with the section "Explore all relevant ideas"

"Consider only ideas about the truth of empirical claims or the effectiveness of policies that, if they turned out to be true, would require a significant rethinking of our moral sensibilities. And consider ideas that, if they turn out to be false, could lead to harm if people believed them to be true. In either case, we don't know whether they are true or false a priori, so only by examining and debating them can we find out. Finally, let's assume that we're not talking about burning people at the stake or cutting out their tongues but about discouraging their research and giving their ideas as little publicity as possible. There is a good case for exploring all ideas relevant to our current concerns, no matter where they lead. The idea that ideas should be discouraged a priori is inherently self-refuting."
Permalink Rick Zeng 
July 27th, 2007 10:11pm

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