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Degrowth Thread

How to save energy through both societal and individual actions.

Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Pops » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 12:02:54

Ibon wrote:This represents a cultural shift of values. This comes up today really only in wealthy nations where individuals, jaded with consumer culture, make individual choices to increase well being by consuming less.

The problem in even talking about "growth", as we've always said, is the metric. GDP as commonly used assumes all spending is additive and higher is always better: crime, war, insurer profits, money-for-nothing from any rentier activity, etc, etc, all add to gdp.

Much of the disaffection, alienation and feeling "left behind" today is because we've been hearing for 50 years right up to yesterday that "GDP growth is so strong!" but when we open that checking account app our balance doesn't look so strong.

Rentier capitalism refers to monopolization of access to any (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) kind of property, and gaining significant amounts of profit without contribution to society. Compare that to the period from say the 30s-80s where income distribution was much flatter, most of GDP was about producing things rather than profits.

At the same time pollution, resource depletion and better vehicle safety don't count... in fact "gdp" would increase if seat belts disappeared because injuries and so medical expenditure would rise creating jobs and investment opportunities and of course profit.

GDP stopped being relevant, if it ever was, when "growth" decoupled from happiness and you'll notice this picture looks just like the wages/productivity chart which reflects the rise of those same rentier activities as well as the Reagan revolution which put an end to when America was great by returning to the regime of all gains trickling up.

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GPI

Unfortunately, the reason this type of metric, GPI or similar, will not be replacing GDP anytime soon mainly because it adjusts for income distribution, and in our society the less income is distributed the better it is for the people buying the decisions and making the headlines. Imagine CNBC breathlessly reporting GPI Stagnates 43rd Year!
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Pops » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 13:34:00

My solution to growth, aside from dieoff, is making work pay. I know that sounds like a Get off Welfare law.

Factoid:
About 20.6 million people (or 30% of all hourly, non-self-employed workers 18 and older) are “near-minimum-wage” workers. those who make more than the minimum wage in their state but less than $10.10 an hour, and therefore also would benefit if the federal minimum is raised to that amount.
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We aren't going to make people want to consume less unless they find fulfilment elsewhere.

I've long said that the trade off of fewer jobs for greater pay is a win, consumption wise, because two-incomes is a trap that increases "gdp" but not necessarily happiness or satisfaction or even disposable income all that much. Ownership has won so far in growing their share of productivity increases in part by offloading part of their wage burden to government. What is better, raising government programs for the working poor or raising the wage to a livable level? Part of the plan since reconstruction seems to be maintaining an underclass that the middle class can lord over, and low minimum wages that necessitate social programs fit that bill.


I know a couple of kids trying to make it on near minimum wage. One is a CNA trying to get a degree, one is a "manager" of a burger joint (read: lots of unpaid overtime). They aren't lazy, they work more than 40 each week, plus school. They can't afford rent, live with grandparent, yes they have cellphones, the cheap burner kind, they spend everything they have and a good portion goes to having 2 jobs.

I can't say for sure if they'd be happier with just one higher paying job but I'm sure it would be both less stressful and less consumptive — hence growth-negative. Maybe one works while the other schools/trains, then they trade off if they want. Of course the big hitch is that would lower the ownerships' profit, which is why the resistance from one party for higher minimum wage.

Just so I'm clear (as if it matters LOL) I'm not down on women working, my mom worked her entire life. I have a journal written by her when she was around 14 in the late '30s that talks about traveling with her uncle from Branson MO (lots of canneries around there at that time) out to the San Joaquin to "cut apricots" in the canneries and drying sheds there. For a time my wife worked outside but for the most part her job has been mother and homemaker and our lives are the better.

Who always wins from the "work hard/get ahead" rumor is the ownership.
That should change to "work enough/enjoy it."
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Cog » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 15:53:21

People who punch the clock and flee the company as soon as their shift is over get paid exactly what they are worth.

If you don't put in the effort to advance in pay and responsibility, then don't be surprised when you are stuck where you are.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 16:54:28

Tanada,

I think you and I are looking at two different parts of the curve.

My comment about “max agony” was reflecting my belief that by continuing with the infinite growth model we will assure that the population will continue to rise so that when the crash comes a maximum number of people will perish at a young age from starvation and illness and war.

How we emerge from that bottle neck, if we emerge, is unknown to me.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 16:57:50

In his magnum opus on The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Georgescu-Roegen argues that economic scarcity is rooted in physical reality; that all natural resources are irreversibly degraded when put to use in economic activity; that the carrying capacity of Earth—that is, Earth's capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels—is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth's finite stock of mineral resources is presently being extracted and put to use; and consequently, that the world economy as a whole is heading towards an inevitable future collapse.[25]


This is the crux if the matter for me.

Does ANYONE here disagree with the above concept?
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 17:03:18

Authors who] were set exclusively on proving the impossibility of growth ... were easily deluded by a simple, now widespread, but false syllogism: Since exponential growth in a finite world leads to disasters of all kinds, ecological salvation lies in the stationary state. ... The crucial error consists in not seeing that not only growth, but also a zero-growth state, nay, even a declining state which does not converge toward annihilation, cannot exist forever in a finite environment.[29]:366f
... [T]he important, yet unnoticed point [is] that the necessary conclusion of the arguments in favor of that vision [of a stationary state] is that the most desirable state is not a stationary, but a declining one. Undoubtedly, the current growth must cease, nay, be reversed.[29]:368f [Emphasis in original]


This is a bit trickier. How does one have infinite degrowth? I sort of get thencincept but also see Earths eco systems as a constantly variable but roughly stable system (until man.)

I see room here for alt energy to challenge this thinking, a bit, perhaps, so that some intellectual growth is allowed on meaningful time scales (many centuries.)
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Plantagenet » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 17:26:34

Newfie wrote:
In his magnum opus on The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Georgescu-Roegen argues that ... Earth's capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels—is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth's finite stock of mineral resources is presently being extracted and put to use; and consequently, that the world economy as a whole is heading towards an inevitable future collapse.[25]


The problem with this viewpoint is that that human estimates of the sum total of "Earth's finite stock of mineral resources" keeps changing. If we had a known amount of resources and then we kept utilizing that stock of resources.....well, then we'd use them all up. You could even estimate the amount of a resource, divide it by the rate of consumption and then exactly estimate when you'd use up the resource. This is the approach Hubbert and his ilk used to make the estimate that peak oil would occur ca. 2000-2010.

But now we know they were wrong. This approach didn't work because a whole new source of oil was found in tight oil shales.

Cheers!
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Cog » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 18:10:09

Newfie I understand what you are saying about degrowth. Lowering our consumption in a planned way so as to minimize the harshness of an uncontrolled destruction of our modern ways. You want to save people from undue suffering. But here is the problem as I see it. I recognize resource limits. Chiefly among them oil.

But I do not trust government to manage much of anything, the corrupt and evil thing that government is, without completely botching that task as well. I prefer the harsher, but ultimately fairer mistress of nature letting humans know when they have consumed the resources they need to survive. Yes, the downside is much more severe. But I value the freedom I have, and not the control I would suffer under a government managed powerdown.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Sun 06 Jan 2019, 22:25:19

Plantagenet wrote:The problem with this viewpoint is that that human estimates of the sum total of "Earth's finite stock of mineral resources" keeps changing. If we had a known amount of resources and then we kept utilizing that stock of resources.....well, then we'd use them all up. You could even estimate the amount of a resource, divide it by the rate of consumption and then exactly estimate when you'd use up the resource. This is the approach Hubbert and his ilk used to make the estimate that peak oil would occur ca. 2000-2010.

But now we know they were wrong. This approach didn't work because a whole new source of oil was found in tight oil shales.
Cheers!

And it's not just oil where this happens. Many resources have shown this broad trend in recent decades. Copper and natural gas come to mind, right off the top. And of course, conservation and efficiency play a big role too. Better mpg cars and LED light bulbs sure make a huge difference over time, in terms of energy conservation.

But this is a side of resource data that doomers simply don't want to see, so they ignore it.

I'm not saying endless growth and nirvana are "a thing". But I am saying that things like efficiency and better processes allow us to stumble along rather well over time, vs. all the dire predictions of running out that we hear pretty much constantly.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 06:21:34

Cog,

Thanks for that thoughtful post. There is much I agree with in it. I don’t trust our governments either. OTOH our current rapacious Consumerisim itself is not a bastion of freedom. As we have both noted most folks make themselves wage spaces with no savings. And it’s leading to a faster than needed climax.

I don’t know that there is a better answer out there but I see no purpose in NOT seeking it. not to make it my life’s work, but for intellectual curiosity if nothing else. On some level I just want to know the truth.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 06:25:13

Plant,

While it’s true the end limit keeps moving that does not mean there is not some ultimate limit we will reach eventually. The faster we go the sooner we get there. And even if there is no hard limit, which I think is more likely, there surely is a limit to sustained extraction. And the more we use the sooner we get there and the more that get there the bigger the collapse.

The theory or process does not need to be perfect in every respect to form a much better model of the world than the one we are currently using.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 11:40:43

Newfie wrote:Plant,

While it’s true the end limit keeps moving that does not mean there is not some ultimate limit we will reach eventually. The faster we go the sooner we get there. And even if there is no hard limit, which I think is more likely, there surely is a limit to sustained extraction. And the more we use the sooner we get there and the more that get there the bigger the collapse.

The theory or process does not need to be perfect in every respect to form a much better model of the world than the one we are currently using.



This is one of my favorite examples so forgive me if you have seen it before.

Substitution in the mineral realm is a extremely larger factor than most people credit. For example earlier EV's like the EV-1 from GM used lead acid batteries, current models use lithium ion and next generation who knows? Speaking of electricity back in the 1930's when things like the Rural Electrification Administration was a thing wiring homes all across the countryside there were many naysayers because 'copper is in short supply'. This was dealt with very successfully starting around 1950 by substituting Aluminum wire for all exterior transmission lines. Nearly every structure built in the USA/Canada today has a powerplant on one end and aluminum wire from the first transformers at the plant all the way to the wire leading into the house to the breaker box made of aluminum wiring. Many large appliance circuits like electric ranges and dryers for clothes have now been approved for dedicated aluminum branch circuits. Many if not most new large structures use aluminum circuit blocks rather than brass because they are just as efficient from the consumer POV and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Yes not everything can be substituted, but we had earbuds that used nickle iron magnets back in the 1970's that have been displaced today with niodinium magnets. That doesn't mean all those cheap nickle iron magnets stopped working, they are just bulkier and much heavier than the modern version. The biggest modern use for those lightweight magnets is wind turbines on high towers where weight is crucial, and in mobile electric motors like EV's use. Given a hard choice I reckon most consumers if they need EV's to replace fossil fuels will vote to scrap the wind turbines and redistribute the mass that went into the magnets to build a hundred or so EV cars. Failing that despite the so called 'rare earth shortage' the USA has an ample supply, we just don't mine it because thorium is a co-product of rare earth mining and the rubes are scared of anything attached to the word radioactive. If the federal government just agreed to take custody of all the thorium incidentally produced at cost the USA would be rare earth self sufficient. IOW it is a political problem, not a technological one.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Pops » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 13:33:00

pstarr wrote:"LED light bulbs sure make a huge difference over time, in terms of energy conservation. "

No they don't. They make a minuscule difference. Residential use ...

Residential use lags, lots of households missed CFLs entirely but commercially it is a big deal. This is only to 2012 and so does not count LEDs becoming cheap the last couple of years.

Image

Lighting is one of the few things I know something about, or did at one time. I designed, built & maintained jewelry stores for a dozen years back in the day. They used hellacious amounts of incandescent lighting and a comparable amount of HVAC to remove the heat produced. We experimented with every lamp you can imagine over the years, but a majority were the typical incandescent flood @ 150w. I tried a new lamp with same par38 shape but with a halogen "capsule" instead of typical element. It used 90w for the same apparent brightness because the small filament made the beam less diffuse and it had a "whiter" color temperature. Though halogen lamps develop high heat in the "capsule" it made less heat than the 150s overall. They had much longer life to boot.

They paid for themselves in a month and saved the company big money on power. So big that when I showed the owner the savings after a year (don't remember the number but it had lots of zeros) he was actually skeptical, likely every other department had already claimed the increased bottom line, lol. I guess when the governor asked me to be on a small biz energy savings advisory board at the recommendation of the Sacramento utility co he eventually looked into it and said "thanks." Woopie!

That was the '80s and those 90w cap-lights are now 15w LEDs and the HVAC load is miniscule. Cooling loads have still increased because of CPU heat but not nearly as much.

Nowadays we never even consider electric lighting but it lengthens the hours we can be productive and enables modern life. In the historic sense, a couple of bulbs were the first thing installed when homes electrified becuse lighting was historically very expensive but it became nearly too cheap to meter with the Edison bulb and now that it is accomplished without the use of a "heating element" the cost really is negligible.

Image


Sorry if that's too corny, but illustrates a huge improvement in economics and resource use that actually shows up as a negative in GDP measurement. Tech as degrowth.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 19:38:18

Tanada,

Sure we can and will do a lot of substitution, but ultimately we will reach the bottom of the barrel. My guess is something else will occur first, I still thing financial collapse is the primary suspect.

But but that even with all the substitution the system will, at best, slowly wind down. How far down is anyone’s guess.

It’s just a matter of how deep you peer into the future.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 19:43:41

Pops,

Since you got so much energy please reflect on this. My theory is that prisiones would show up as a net GROWTH in the economy. They are perfect consumers. All kinds of legal and social worker type jobs, construction building the prisikns, health care, cleaning, food services, guards. I think an average prisioner costs about $150k/year. And cost = consumption. So that’s a pretty high consumption.

Make any sense to you?

Is there any actual proof that putting a guy in jail increases the GDP?
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Pops » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 19:51:27

Newfie wrote:Make any sense to you?

Is there any actual proof that putting a guy in jail increases the GDP?

Perfect sense. You just provided the proof, all spending adds to gdp.

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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Ibon » Mon 07 Jan 2019, 22:01:45

Cog wrote:
But I do not trust government to manage much of anything, the corrupt and evil thing that government is, without completely botching that task as well. I prefer the harsher, but ultimately fairer mistress of nature letting humans know when they have consumed the resources they need to survive. Yes, the downside is much more severe. But I value the freedom I have, and not the control I would suffer under a government managed power down.


A problem I see with this position is in America's long term ability to compete with other nations in the field of declining resources. If the majority of Americans for example continue to see their government as evil, corrupt and incompetent how will this this position compare with other countries whose citizens are socialized to follow government regulations and not only follow but embrace and choose to do so. Under these two scenarios which country will better manage to remain cohesive in preserving their infrastructure, maintaining social stability, managing, rationing, distributing and prioritizing energy for essentials and restricting discretionary usage etc.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Cog » Tue 08 Jan 2019, 05:33:30

In a regimented society, the citizens will do just enough to get their allotment and no more. There is no personal motive in supporting the collective unless you are absolutely forced to by gunpoint.

But on the other hand, if you are free to innovate based on cost or lack of resources, then you are personally more motivated to succeed.
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Re: Degrowth Thread

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 08 Jan 2019, 08:03:43

You both have good points. And therein lies the problem. Every solution creates a different set of problems.

What’s needed is flexible and adaptive thinking, which NO government is good at. You may get a fresh wave but, generally within a generation, they have been assimilated into the governmental grist mill grind.

I’ve no answer to offer. Trying to see the problem is tough enough.
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