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MOwens

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A radical plan
« on: March 17, 2013, 07:04:58 PM »
In this article: http://climatewatch.typepad.com/blog/2013/03/a-radical-plan-1.html

I propose a radical plan to restructure a large portion of modern development. While focused on the U.S. and it's issues, it would apply across the world.

Main points:
1. development would be high density, surrounded by open space: farms, recreational parks, wildlife areas, etc.
2. very few people would own a vehicle, use one, or even need to.
3. people would mostly live within a mile of where they work, shop, and conduct most of the rest of their lives
4. solar and wind would replace fossil fuel electricity generation
5. food would be grown closer to the source of consumption, and less meat would be produced.
6. benefits would include longer life, higher quality of life, improved health, several hundred extra hours of free time per year, and for the average American, $9,000 or more in savings per year.
7. the plan would be implemented via a set of very strong incentives/disincentives  which would spur a construction boom and rapid (10-20 years) relocation of most citizens, while also leading to an economic boom and real growth in wages.

....so what do you think?

jonthed

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2013, 07:37:16 PM »
I don't much like the sound of a construction boom.

What you're imagining seems to be a small dense city, like are common in china (they call them towns but many have >500k people), but with renewable power sources. It would work well, for a small city, but what about all the existing cities, and what about smaller towns?

Also, it sounds like we're making everybody live near where they work. If there's a decent 'green' metro or other public transportation system, then this is unnecessary, like london for example. Just make the electricity source green and it's all good.

Big cities have obvious advantages over small cities too, as do small towns. I'd say it's more important to think about transitioning to green transportation. Electric cars, buses and trains powered from renewable sources.

MOwens

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2013, 07:40:25 PM »
please read the article before commenting;

you have misrepresented the idea.

But thank you for your interest.  :)
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 07:50:14 PM by MOwens »

Neven

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2013, 10:36:24 PM »
In my view (and I don't have time to discuss it, sorry; maybe I should have just shut up  :P ) you have to transition away from two things:

1) Economic growth as it is currently (arbitrarily!) defined
2) Large-scale agriculture

You want to transition to:

1) A steady state economy
2) Horticulture

And of course, do not forget overpopulation.

Dense cities are not going to cut it. Cities, made possible by (industrialized) agriculture, are a big part of the problem. Industrialized agriculture is killing everything.
Compare, compare, compare

Wernerempire

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2013, 10:01:56 AM »
All right, so here comes my first comment:

(alas, please bear with me, but I feel the need to identify myself first as "not a Koch Brothers stooge" - In that vein: I'm the son of german WWII refugee and displaced parents. I was a very young punk in 1979, living by "never trust a hippy". I turned out a Hippy-Punk, building the Green Party in my home town in the nascent 80's. Strong kinship to the Joschka Fischer RealPolitik wing. In city council, all my proposals were gunned down from left, right, and center [literally - we had a unique party scape]. I was young, many things happened, I ended up living in many different cities and countries, now for twenty years in Vancouver, BC. It ain't heaven. Fun fact, on return visits to my home town in Germany's rust belt, most all of my original proposals had become policy, but yet implemented by the majority party that was a boisterous opponent of them just two decades prior.)

Yes, if you managed to read this far, you will say: we don't have two decades to act!

True.

Alas, again, I do have a certain view about what "human nature" is.

It's grand, to shout Utopian conceptual changes at your fellow citizen, highlighted by the facts of a cold, hard changing environment.

Once more, alas: would you think, shouting at a child about dire consequences for certain actions if no Zen-like, Utopian spirituality is acquired, like, Pronto!, will have the effect that your paternal instincts desire?

In my life, that approach never ever worked.

So, fast forward to the topic at hand:
Good starting points for change are concepts outside of the box that deal with the reality we live in now.

Off the top:
  • Proposal concepts for rail trasses to move material for dykes into habitat endangered lowlands.
     
  • Schemes for holding ponds and dyked canal systems that are drained by wind and solar
  • global calculations, how solar powered "labour" of moving said rocks for dykes benefits the global warming balance sheet (a much better approach then all the ideas of "geo engineering with all the un-knowns of unintended consequences"
  • Clearly defining where new food production growth will be possible, and "Profit!" can be had, will save more people from starving in the near future than "Horticulture" alone will

Okay, cheers all,
and before you all throw sticks at me:
I volunteered on a series of anti-Northern-Gateway pipeline public service announcement, and work with a dear friend on a marketable documentary about the Canadian Arctic.

Okay now, have a go at it, I'll duck....
"Erst kommt das fressen, dann kommt die Moral!"

Berthold Brecht

Bob Wallace

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2013, 11:49:48 PM »
....so what do you think?

How about we do this...

1. Require all factory and office buildings to be multiple story with worker dormitories above the work areas.

2. Hot bunk three shifts - each person can have their own sheets and 8 hours access to a bunk.

3. Communal kitchens in which each person is furnished with a bowl, cup and spoon which they wash at the end of each meal.

Do that and we eliminate the need for any personal transportation.  Properly constructed dorms should require no heat in addition to that given off by the occupants.  Food waste can be kept to a bare minimum by control the amounts of food given to each person....

OK.  That wouldn't work. 

People will not stand for too much disruption to their chosen lifestyle.  Folks who enjoy living in the suburbs or countryside are not going to voluntarily move to densely populated cities.  They are not going to gladly give up their personal vehicles.

Any politician who tried to make the changes needed would be swiftly voted out of office.

The most workable solution, IMO, is to find acceptable substitutes for today's technology which is causing the problems.

There's no reason why we can't move to renewable energy.  We have the technology and the cost of electricity would be cheaper.  We can drive EVs and PHEVs for less money than liquid fuel vehicles.  We can move to sustainable inputs for our manufacturing needs.

It's where we are headed.  We just need to speed up the process.

gfwellman

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2013, 09:09:36 AM »
I think Bob is right, on this thread and the other one.  We have the technology and the capability to replace *most* of what we want/have in our lives with fully renewable energy sources.  It won't be a perfect substitution.  *Minor* sacrifices of convenience, such as having to plan ahead when your car is charged up will be part of the deal.  The implementation costs don't need to hurt the average person - people can be paid for installing new electrical infrastructure instead of drilling for oil.  In terms of quality of life, it should fairly quickly be neutral-to-positive for the middle class.  The change in priorities will reduce the availability of luxury goods for the wealthy.  Boo hoo.  The big concern is doing this fast enough that the benefits don't get swamped by the costs imposed by the emissions we've already created/committed to.

icebgone

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2013, 12:57:37 AM »
 Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has engineered a composite plug that will enable higher voltages and reduced loss of current for daily public recharge use at refill stations.  Estimated time to refill a standard electric car battery array is 5-8 minutes.  Time to commercial deployment is estimated at 5 years - assuming commercial demand.  The key has been development of manufacturing techniques for layering of superconducting materials that can withstand high temperatures and swings in temperatures for extended periods of time.  This should make electric cars comparable to ICE for long trips.  Change is coming!!

gfwellman

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2013, 01:34:10 AM »
Got a link on that?  A little math ... say an 80kWh pack recharged in 8 minutes ... does anyone else get a charging rate of 600kW?  I guess electrical substations will be the new gas stations.  Forget the plug, what are the wires made of?  Can a battery pack absorb energy that fast without parts of it melting?

Don't get me wrong, such fast recharging would be nice, but I think a lot of complementary tech would be needed for this to really work.

icebgone

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2013, 04:32:49 AM »
GFWellman,  You are right about the ancillary technology being needed.  One important piece can be found at "https://str.llnl.gov/AprMay11/meike.html" where a 250kwh electromechanical battery is described as operational and available for hospitals, businesses, wind farms, solar and individuals in rural locations etc.  The other necessary piece is marketplace demand.  Here in the U.S. we operate on a 120V system.  In Europe its 240V.  These correspond to SAE j1772 levels 1 & 2.  Japan uses level 3 which utilizes 200-600V DC under 400A for a total of 240kw.  California is seriously considering this level.  Heat from the 250kwh battery has almost been eliminated and DC flowing through superconducting materials or using inductance via magnetic fields should fill batteries with little heat effect.  This all may come to fruition only if the price of electricity is less than ICE fuel.  Personally, I think $5-6 per gallon may be my limit.  I generally refill once a week whether I really need to or not and my alternative is biking when possible.

Lucas Durand

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2013, 04:48:50 AM »
I think Bob is right, on this thread and the other one.  We have the technology and the capability to replace *most* of what we want/have in our lives with fully renewable energy sources.  It won't be a perfect substitution.  *Minor* sacrifices of convenience, such as having to plan ahead when your car is charged up will be part of the deal.
gfwellman,
The availability and even the cost of the technology isn't really the issue - in fact, there is no single issue that can be addressed to solve this puzzle.
No magic bullet.

The idea that we can somehow consume our way out of the climate change predicament is a little like the idea that we can somehow borrow (or print) our way out of bankruptcy (another idea that seems to be gaining in popularity these days).

Mass producing millions and millions of EVs (new models every year for those with fashion sense) for an ever larger marketplace seems like a rather bad idea on a planet where access to resources is getting more difficult, dangerous and expensive with time.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2013, 05:07:20 AM by Lucas Durand »

gfwellman

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2013, 09:31:37 PM »
You're arguing with a straw man.  I never said new models every year for an ever larger marketplace.  On the latter, clearly we must achieve zero population growth (and realistically negative in the more crowded nations).  On the former, I was just reading yesterday about a significant change in attitudes regarding keeping cars longer.  So that's already changing.

I also never said there was a single issue or technology.  We need ZPG, deployment of several technologies, continued development of others, and ultimately a socioeconomic system geared towards equitable distribution of the fruits of a mainly steady-state economy rather than hoarding control over a growth-based economy.

While we're talking economics, your characterization of "the idea that we can somehow borrow (or print) our way out of bankruptcy" makes you sound like the idiots who think a national budget is like a family budget.  We are not bankrupt.  Human wealth is the total of what we can (sustainably) produce and what nature provides us.  Technically, that's income, with the wealth that generates that income being the infrastructure of production and the "natural capital" of the environment.  Paper money has been very, very useful, but don't mistake it for real wealth.  Over recent decades we have done real damage to our natural capital in the pursuit of stacks of paper.  We need to stop doing that damage, and order to do so, we're probably going to have to change some of the rules about the pieces of paper.  But we aren't bankrupt - we have a vast productive capacity and (luckly still) a lot of natural capital.  Completely ignoring the pieces of paper, we have the capability to feed and clothe everyone, and indeed for those in the developed world to continue living very good lives (although certain wasteful behaviors will need to change) while also lifting the global poor out of poverty (but as previously noted, only with ZPG or better).  Our problem is not "bankruptcy".  Our problem is that our policies are determined by ultra-privileged owners of banks and fossil fuel companies (amongst others) who want to keep their privilege and (e.g.) continue flitting between their international vacation homes by private jet.

Lucas Durand

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2013, 10:56:28 PM »
gfwellman,

You're arguing with a straw man.  I never said new models every year for an ever larger marketplace.
Fair enough - apologies.
It is easy to assume that is what you mean since it is a fairly safe assumption that the market for such items as personal vehicles will grow even if population does level off in the future.
At least, that is the dream isn't it?
That everyone in the world can enjoy some type of lifestyle similar to what the developed world has had?

While we're talking economics, your characterization of "the idea that we can somehow borrow (or print) our way out of bankruptcy" makes you sound like the idiots who think a national budget is like a family budget.  We are not bankrupt.  Human wealth is the total of what we can (sustainably) produce and what nature provides us.
You can characterize my statement like that if you like but that would be a straw man of your making then.

I maintain that trying to consume our way out of the climate change predicament is a paradox (which is all I was trying to illustrate with my "characterization").

Obviously a national budget is more complex than a household budget.
However, in many ways we do essentially borrow from the future to meet the "needs" of today and in many ways we "borrow" in ways that can never be "paid back".
And isn't QE just an effort to float the system with liquidity generated from thin air ("printed money") until the system resumes growing again on its own?

We may not be actually bankrupt, but we have certainly been living well beyond our means in the sense that we have over-leveraged what capital we have and used the gains to accelerate the entire process.
It's a long way down to de-leverage to the point where capital can be used without there being a multiplicity of claims on it from "above".
What the global economy might look like after such deleveraging is anyone's guess but it's probably safe to say it won't resemble what we've come to know and so probably won't work the same way either.

It seems to me that the future is going to be a "riches to rags" story (at least "rags" to most people who have been enjoying a middle class existence) but we're still trying to use the assumptions and logic of the "good 'ol days" to plan for a future in which those assumptions and logic may be erroneous.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 02:03:36 AM by Lucas Durand »

gfwellman

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2013, 03:41:40 AM »
My apologies also - the "we're going bankrupt" talk really did sound like the things said by those promoting government spending cuts in the face of a recession, but I see you weren't going there.

I hope you see what I'm getting at though - we have vast productive capability and we still have pretty vast natural capital, although we have certainly reduced/damaged it.  I agree that "borrowing from the future" is a perfectly good way to describe that.   If we retool our productive capability towards materials recycling and renewable energy, we can stop borrowing from the future.  That's my description of the deleveraging you mentioned.  I'm not advocating consuming our way out of our predicament.  Certainly a good fraction of the activity I am advocating would look like consumption (yay, new EV) but if the ICEV it replaces is fully recycled, it's not consumption in the bad sense.  If we are smart about what we build, we can maintain something like the modern western middle class lifestyle but at greatly reduced cost.  I should immediately explain that to me, "lifestyle" is not defined by consumption.  It's defined by experience.  I experience the same comfort as the previous owners of this house at half the energy cost because of the upgraded insulation and more efficient systems I've installed.  You're building a house where you should have zero energy cost.  I do consume food, and lots of it, but food production can be made sustainable (I know it isn't right now).  I guess what I'm arguing is that an intelligently planned steady-state economy can deliver as least as much "lifestyle" as the current one, through significant improvements to efficiency in the use of energy and materials, and the recycling of the latter.  There may be some reductions in available experiences like less red meat and no monster truck rallies, but overall life can be made better for the average person in that deleveraged future.

The path between here and there would involve a high degree of governmental activism, taxing, creating, spending and shuffling those little pieces of paper to get people to do the things I've described, but the actual pieces of paper don't matter.  In a bizarre hypothetical, imagine all those people are a hive mind following my plan.  Then they just do it without exchanging any little pieces of paper.  You're probably right that our current financial elite is just trying to get the next bubble going, but that doesn't discredit any particular financial tool.  The only bankruptcy we must really fear is drawing our natural capital down to zero.  I think we're in strong agreement that balancing that account is vitally important.  I'm just considerably more optimistic (and I think justifiably so, although it's difficult in this format to make a full argument) about what human lifestyle can look like in a world where we are no longer drawing down our natural capital.  I might be as pessimistic as you about our prospects of actually achieving my limited utopia though.  Our current plutocrats would rather burn civilization to the ground than give up their privileged place in it.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 07:24:21 AM by gfwellman »

Lucas Durand

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Re: A radical plan
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2013, 10:56:20 PM »
gfwellman,
It sounds like there is probably plenty we can agree on.
Not least of which is the idea that "happiness" and "lifestyle" are more accurately defined by experience and not material possessions.
My dad grew up "poor" by the standards of the time (even more so by today's standards), but his parents grew up in the depression and had the perspective to deal day-to-day with those conditions.
I've never heard my dad tell me that he grew up unhappy or that he felt deprived.

Though I like to consider my perspective more "realistic" than "pessimistic", I do often find myself hoping that some sort of utopian idea will pan out (who doesn't right?).
Unfortunately however, my own day-to-day experience teaches me that hope is something like a fuzzy blanket that can make you feel good but isn't something that justifies a course of action, or lack of action.
Sometimes difficult situations call for difficult compromises.

Anyway, it would be interesting to lay out a more complete argument about why I think we're headed for a future of contraction but I'm out of time now ;-)

Cheers.