Comments on: Feels Like I’m Dying…From that Old Used-to-Be http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/ Sharon Astyk's Ruminations on an Ambiguous Future Thu, 04 Dec 2008 00:35:59 +0000 #?v=2.3.2 By: Anonymous http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1302 Anonymous Sat, 16 Jun 2007 19:39:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1302 Hi Sharon and others,<br/><br/>I don't know if you've heard of it, but I just finished Eric Bende's book _Better Off_ which is a thoughtful examination of the question of just how much technology is needed to improve quality of life, working conditions, community cohesion, etc., and just when it becomes detrimental. It's a practical consideration, too, since he and his wife spent a year and a half in a strict (e.g. motor-less) off-shot of the Amish community (farming, having a child, making a living, building community, etc.) and then tried to bring his insights into the "English" world and to create a balanced, sustainable, low-tech/high-happiness way of life out in world. You might enjoy it.<br/><br/>-E Hi Sharon and others,

I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but I just finished Eric Bende’s book _Better Off_ which is a thoughtful examination of the question of just how much technology is needed to improve quality of life, working conditions, community cohesion, etc., and just when it becomes detrimental. It’s a practical consideration, too, since he and his wife spent a year and a half in a strict (e.g. motor-less) off-shot of the Amish community (farming, having a child, making a living, building community, etc.) and then tried to bring his insights into the “English” world and to create a balanced, sustainable, low-tech/high-happiness way of life out in world. You might enjoy it.

-E

]]>
By: Anonymous http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1301 Anonymous Tue, 05 Jun 2007 20:38:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1301 I feel we can blind ourselves from seeing valuable/atypical options if we leave unvetted assumptions in our thought processes.<br/><br/>Assuming that we cannot support our current population unless we engage in petroleum intensive agriculture; or that we cannot switch to other forms of energy fairly quickly; or that there is no such thing as free energy, are really only beliefs and not facts. Beliefs that can prevent us even examining various lines of thoughts if we accept them unchallenged. (what can we prove is true and what are we assuming?)<br/><br/>For example, we have a new power plant running on turkey manure. http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/199905/17_herzogk_turkeys-m/<br/>Rather than create massive pools of toxic manure which are insured and managed at the farmers expense, we get energy from refuse. <br/><br/>The refuse from ethanol production makes wonderful high protein animal feed or pellets for heating. We may not be able to make enough biodeisel for cars out of used fryer oil or other products, but we could run the trains on biodesiel or barges.<br/><br/>no matter what.. conservation has got to become a popular issue. (How do we motivate...?)<br/><br/>When the experts tell us we can't make this transition in only 10-15 years, it means we need to find new experts, since we don't have ten years. <br/><br/>Just an opinion, but I feel it would help to step back and debug the flawed thinking that got us here, before we start creating the new. <br/><br/>signed: pheasant-peasant I feel we can blind ourselves from seeing valuable/atypical options if we leave unvetted assumptions in our thought processes.

Assuming that we cannot support our current population unless we engage in petroleum intensive agriculture; or that we cannot switch to other forms of energy fairly quickly; or that there is no such thing as free energy, are really only beliefs and not facts. Beliefs that can prevent us even examining various lines of thoughts if we accept them unchallenged. (what can we prove is true and what are we assuming?)

For example, we have a new power plant running on turkey manure. http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/199905/17_herzogk_turkeys-m/
Rather than create massive pools of toxic manure which are insured and managed at the farmers expense, we get energy from refuse.

The refuse from ethanol production makes wonderful high protein animal feed or pellets for heating. We may not be able to make enough biodeisel for cars out of used fryer oil or other products, but we could run the trains on biodesiel or barges.

no matter what.. conservation has got to become a popular issue. (How do we motivate…?)

When the experts tell us we can’t make this transition in only 10-15 years, it means we need to find new experts, since we don’t have ten years.

Just an opinion, but I feel it would help to step back and debug the flawed thinking that got us here, before we start creating the new.

signed: pheasant-peasant

]]>
By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1300 jewishfarmer Mon, 04 Jun 2007 13:32:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1300 Dave, I'm not opposed to technological innovation, but often note Jared Diamond's comment that he can't think of a single technology that hasn't created at least as many problems as it solved. I'm not sure that's absolutely correct, but over all, I tend to think that the search for ever "higher" technological solutions and the rejection of intermediate tech suggests something misplaced.<br/><br/>I agree on changing the socioeconomic system and the reduction of inequity, but I personally would think of them as "technologies" simply because of the burden that word bears.<br/><br/>Sharon Dave, I’m not opposed to technological innovation, but often note Jared Diamond’s comment that he can’t think of a single technology that hasn’t created at least as many problems as it solved. I’m not sure that’s absolutely correct, but over all, I tend to think that the search for ever “higher” technological solutions and the rejection of intermediate tech suggests something misplaced.

I agree on changing the socioeconomic system and the reduction of inequity, but I personally would think of them as “technologies” simply because of the burden that word bears.

Sharon

]]>
By: Dave http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1299 Dave Sun, 03 Jun 2007 19:36:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1299 Hi Sharon, as usual, I'll look forward to your post on why we're unlikely to drive fossil fuel usage to zero in the near future. I agree wholeheartedly, precisely for the reasons implied by your mention of needed infrastructure. <br/><br/>I sense, too, we're in essential agreement of the worthiness of pursuing technical solutions, or we'll never achieve the desired zero usage of fossil fuel. Conservation alone seems most unlikely to avert the catastrophe in front of us, striking me as worthy but also too little, too late to be the answer in and of itself. <br/><br/>While not technical in perhaps its truest sense, a revision of the current socioeconomic system to something other than the inherently expansionist globalization of the current system seems necessary. I do not mean to drift too far off subject, but I'd suggest technology plays a role in how the earth's resources are equitably distributed as well. <br/><br/>Cheers,<br/>Dave Hi Sharon, as usual, I’ll look forward to your post on why we’re unlikely to drive fossil fuel usage to zero in the near future. I agree wholeheartedly, precisely for the reasons implied by your mention of needed infrastructure.

I sense, too, we’re in essential agreement of the worthiness of pursuing technical solutions, or we’ll never achieve the desired zero usage of fossil fuel. Conservation alone seems most unlikely to avert the catastrophe in front of us, striking me as worthy but also too little, too late to be the answer in and of itself.

While not technical in perhaps its truest sense, a revision of the current socioeconomic system to something other than the inherently expansionist globalization of the current system seems necessary. I do not mean to drift too far off subject, but I’d suggest technology plays a role in how the earth’s resources are equitably distributed as well.

Cheers,
Dave

]]>
By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1298 jewishfarmer Sun, 03 Jun 2007 19:05:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1298 Dave, the reason conserving fossil fuels is necessary is because *some* infrastructure is necessary, and if we can't make it with renewable energies, or replace most of our renewables that way, we'll be better off if we leave some fossil fuels for future generations to make the occasional battery or antibiotic with. Or, for that matter, transport local foods from land-rich area to a population rich one. <br/><br/>The corrollary of this post, which I'll write about in the future is that our needs for some measure of fossil fuels are unlikely to be reduced to 0 very quickly - the only hope is to reduce them absolutely as far as we can, and conserve for the future.<br/><br/>Sharon Dave, the reason conserving fossil fuels is necessary is because *some* infrastructure is necessary, and if we can’t make it with renewable energies, or replace most of our renewables that way, we’ll be better off if we leave some fossil fuels for future generations to make the occasional battery or antibiotic with. Or, for that matter, transport local foods from land-rich area to a population rich one.

The corrollary of this post, which I’ll write about in the future is that our needs for some measure of fossil fuels are unlikely to be reduced to 0 very quickly - the only hope is to reduce them absolutely as far as we can, and conserve for the future.

Sharon

]]>
By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1297 jewishfarmer Sun, 03 Jun 2007 18:49:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1297 Mem, lifespan data includes infant and child mortality - period. <br/><br/>All I'm noting is that we all know people who would die without X technology - and people who die *because* of X technology. It does personalize it to say that - I know someone in a wheelchair because she was hit by an ambulance - clearly a victim of that technology we need so badly. But again, that's anecdotal, and not all that relevant. <br/><br/>That's why the evidence that you can have a low energy society and high mortality is relevant. It has nothing to do with something being perfect - all along I've simply been arguing that we can achieve high lifespans and high quality of life in a largely agrarian society. Nothing more than that.<br/><br/>As for the relevance to Cleveland - the whole point is *WITH* those ambulances people in Cleveland still live shorter lives of lower quality than people in Kerala - that is, it isn't the ambulances that make the major statistical differences - if they did, people in inner city Cleveland would have the advantage. I don't think the climate really has that much to do with it - cold climates get off easy in the endemic disease department.<br/><br/>Anyway, you'll have your opinion, I'll have mine.<br/><br/>Sharon Mem, lifespan data includes infant and child mortality - period.

All I’m noting is that we all know people who would die without X technology - and people who die *because* of X technology. It does personalize it to say that - I know someone in a wheelchair because she was hit by an ambulance - clearly a victim of that technology we need so badly. But again, that’s anecdotal, and not all that relevant.

That’s why the evidence that you can have a low energy society and high mortality is relevant. It has nothing to do with something being perfect - all along I’ve simply been arguing that we can achieve high lifespans and high quality of life in a largely agrarian society. Nothing more than that.

As for the relevance to Cleveland - the whole point is *WITH* those ambulances people in Cleveland still live shorter lives of lower quality than people in Kerala - that is, it isn’t the ambulances that make the major statistical differences - if they did, people in inner city Cleveland would have the advantage. I don’t think the climate really has that much to do with it - cold climates get off easy in the endemic disease department.

Anyway, you’ll have your opinion, I’ll have mine.

Sharon

]]>
By: Anonymous http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1296 Anonymous Sun, 03 Jun 2007 17:58:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1296 Well, I tried lifespan data--from history and from present day native groups (see wikipedia). But only your example of lifespan data counts--Kerala. That lovely coastal location without cold weather, which we are to equate with Cleveland for some reason. And you are allowed to subtract infant and child mortality, which I argue would be higher.<br/><br/>I thought it might bring it closer to others if they thought about people in their circle who wouldn't be alive now if we were living the charming peasant lifestyle. My sister fell off her bike and cracked her head. That could happen without oil. My niece was born with a hole in heart--a congenital defect. That could happen without oil. Those (probable) deaths have to count in the equation.<br/><br/>Since only some data counts, and anecdotal isn't useful for the discussion, I'll concede. We'll all be delightfully blissful peasants with full life spans.<br/><br/>--mem Well, I tried lifespan data–from history and from present day native groups (see wikipedia). But only your example of lifespan data counts–Kerala. That lovely coastal location without cold weather, which we are to equate with Cleveland for some reason. And you are allowed to subtract infant and child mortality, which I argue would be higher.

I thought it might bring it closer to others if they thought about people in their circle who wouldn’t be alive now if we were living the charming peasant lifestyle. My sister fell off her bike and cracked her head. That could happen without oil. My niece was born with a hole in heart–a congenital defect. That could happen without oil. Those (probable) deaths have to count in the equation.

Since only some data counts, and anecdotal isn’t useful for the discussion, I’ll concede. We’ll all be delightfully blissful peasants with full life spans.

–mem

]]>
By: Dave http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1295 Dave Sun, 03 Jun 2007 16:52:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1295 Hi Sharon,<br/><br/>The circular bit refers to the argument of first we're stealing energy from the future, burdening our children with a low energy lifestyle, and then stating the low energy lifestyle is preferred anyway. In short, this begs the question of why act now if things will naturally progress in this direction, which I know from reading your blog faithfully for the past six months is not your point. <br/><br/>My personal desire for solutions comes from seeing a tragedy coming if none are found. Our access to cheap energy has multiplied our ability to produce food, standing Malthus on his head, but only for the moment. The supersized population already exists, and even with no growth a decay in food production correlating with a decay in available energy frightens me. Local food movements, which I personally support for a number of reasons, are only practicable where large amounts of arable land are available in appropriate ratio to the population. Unfortunately, we've long since passed this ratio in many poorer regions of the world.<br/><br/>In the main, I think we agree a focus on solutions to maintain creature comforts misses the point. We need to act to avert a real tragedy. What's unclear to me is whether we agree there's also a moral imperative to seek solutions whereever we may find them, whether it be through personal actions or driving new technologies. Hi Sharon,

The circular bit refers to the argument of first we’re stealing energy from the future, burdening our children with a low energy lifestyle, and then stating the low energy lifestyle is preferred anyway. In short, this begs the question of why act now if things will naturally progress in this direction, which I know from reading your blog faithfully for the past six months is not your point.

My personal desire for solutions comes from seeing a tragedy coming if none are found. Our access to cheap energy has multiplied our ability to produce food, standing Malthus on his head, but only for the moment. The supersized population already exists, and even with no growth a decay in food production correlating with a decay in available energy frightens me. Local food movements, which I personally support for a number of reasons, are only practicable where large amounts of arable land are available in appropriate ratio to the population. Unfortunately, we’ve long since passed this ratio in many poorer regions of the world.

In the main, I think we agree a focus on solutions to maintain creature comforts misses the point. We need to act to avert a real tragedy. What’s unclear to me is whether we agree there’s also a moral imperative to seek solutions whereever we may find them, whether it be through personal actions or driving new technologies.

]]>
By: jewishfarmer http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1294 jewishfarmer Sun, 03 Jun 2007 15:22:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1294 Dave, I'm not clear on how you think my argument is circular. Can you clarify? That is, even if peasants are deriving a happy life from it, their happiness is still impinged upon by a heated up planet, poison in their water, globalization, etc.. But that's presumably not what you mean. Sorry I'm not following.<br/><br/>Mem, I too know people who are alive because of modern medicine. I also know people (and most of us do) who died because of lifestyle diseases or car accidents. Anecdotal evidence is sort of irrelevant here - that's why rely on things like lifespans, which give us a real sense of how much those things *matter* - and it is worth noting that in a peasant society spending 1/70th of what we do on health care, without ambulances and industrial medicine, and with a tiny amount of fossil fueled medical infrastructure, people are achieving lifespans similar to our own. <br/><br/>The value of this sort of thing is that it gives us a chance to place things like ambulances and their consequences in real perspective - how much actual value do they provide. And the answer is some - but not as much as we intuitively try to claim.<br/><br/>Anonymous (last one - please sign a name or nickname or something if you don't log in - it seems so rude to refer to people as "Anonymous #7), that, of course, is the big question, isn't it. Some of my emphasis on low technology, low intervention solutions has been because I think that we need solutions that can be administered fairly rapidly, even if some kind of collapse preceeds our readiness. I do think the local food movement is a tremendous opportunity for us to get that basic need structured into our community. <br/><br/>This is a question that deserves a longer answer - I'll try and write about it sooner, because it is important.<br/><br/>Sharon Dave, I’m not clear on how you think my argument is circular. Can you clarify? That is, even if peasants are deriving a happy life from it, their happiness is still impinged upon by a heated up planet, poison in their water, globalization, etc.. But that’s presumably not what you mean. Sorry I’m not following.

Mem, I too know people who are alive because of modern medicine. I also know people (and most of us do) who died because of lifestyle diseases or car accidents. Anecdotal evidence is sort of irrelevant here - that’s why rely on things like lifespans, which give us a real sense of how much those things *matter* - and it is worth noting that in a peasant society spending 1/70th of what we do on health care, without ambulances and industrial medicine, and with a tiny amount of fossil fueled medical infrastructure, people are achieving lifespans similar to our own.

The value of this sort of thing is that it gives us a chance to place things like ambulances and their consequences in real perspective - how much actual value do they provide. And the answer is some - but not as much as we intuitively try to claim.

Anonymous (last one - please sign a name or nickname or something if you don’t log in - it seems so rude to refer to people as “Anonymous #7), that, of course, is the big question, isn’t it. Some of my emphasis on low technology, low intervention solutions has been because I think that we need solutions that can be administered fairly rapidly, even if some kind of collapse preceeds our readiness. I do think the local food movement is a tremendous opportunity for us to get that basic need structured into our community.

This is a question that deserves a longer answer - I’ll try and write about it sooner, because it is important.

Sharon

]]>
By: dave http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1293 dave Sat, 02 Jun 2007 00:33:00 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2007/05/29/feels-like-im-dyingfrom-that-old-used-to-be/#comment-1293 I take it it's the wishing for solutions not the seeking that's so annoying. Reducing our convenience lifestyle's within everyone's ability, while far fewer can find the technical solutions perhaps eventually worthy of your writing an ad. Presumably you're not arguing those with the talent to perhaps create solutions shouldn't try, even if it does mean benefitting conscientious and non-conscientious alike. <br/><br/>The peasant argument strikes me as somewhat circular. If a peasant lifestyle is pleasant, with much of the world happier for it, those living the supposedly rich lifestyle are stealing nothing at all, either from the "poor", or from future generations. Such a program would be problematic for those in cities, now said to be over half the world's population. Massive relocation and re-education would be needed. Such a program's been tried before, of course, but the Chinese haven't been thanking Mao for it lately. <br/><br/>Driving a cultural change towards simplicity makes a lot of sense to me personally, and in our popular culture there exists signs of longing for it. Finding the "Lamaze" method for this rebirth, making it as easy and as painless as possible doesn't seem such an unworthy goal for an engineer. <br/><br/>Thank you for another thought provoking piece. I take it it’s the wishing for solutions not the seeking that’s so annoying. Reducing our convenience lifestyle’s within everyone’s ability, while far fewer can find the technical solutions perhaps eventually worthy of your writing an ad. Presumably you’re not arguing those with the talent to perhaps create solutions shouldn’t try, even if it does mean benefitting conscientious and non-conscientious alike.

The peasant argument strikes me as somewhat circular. If a peasant lifestyle is pleasant, with much of the world happier for it, those living the supposedly rich lifestyle are stealing nothing at all, either from the “poor”, or from future generations. Such a program would be problematic for those in cities, now said to be over half the world’s population. Massive relocation and re-education would be needed. Such a program’s been tried before, of course, but the Chinese haven’t been thanking Mao for it lately.

Driving a cultural change towards simplicity makes a lot of sense to me personally, and in our popular culture there exists signs of longing for it. Finding the “Lamaze” method for this rebirth, making it as easy and as painless as possible doesn’t seem such an unworthy goal for an engineer.

Thank you for another thought provoking piece.

]]>