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  •  Hmm... (13+ / 0-)

    I think I have two main points of disagreement with your take.  First:

    except that one necessarily has to replace them with "something."

    When a friend of mine, Adam, and I started our blog, he wrote a brief blurb on why we called it contraposition:

    We’ve noticed that much of the sustainability/green/environmental community likes to reason in only one direction:

    (1) If we’re going to maintain the current economy (p), then we’ll need alternative fuels that meet current energy needs (q).

    But why not contrapose?

    (2) If we can’t get alternative fuels to meet current energy needs (~q), then we won’t be able to maintain the current economy (~p).

    If you emphasize (1), the lesson is: let’s get to work on making alternative fuels meet current (extravagant) energy needs.  But if you emphasize (2), the lesson is: let’s start thinking about what a different economy would look like.  We think it’s vital to start thinking about both directions, and not neglect the contrapositive.

    That is, our thinking is that we shouldn't be looking to replace them with anything - we are just going to have to live with less.  In the near term all that will happen is that electricity prices would go up, driving down demand.  As the economic contractions that correspond to oil depletion start hitting the economy more seriously, demand will fall on its own and we can start thinking about what a different economy might look like - one that doesn't need as much energy.

    Nuclear power is only one example of "complex" technologies upon which we are dependent, and for which failures have catastrophic consequences.

    Second, I mean complexity (and correspondingly, safety) in a different sense here.  I agree that monocultures/industrial agriculture have the potential to cause major problems, as do coal plants, etc.  These are practices and technologies we need to move away from as well.  However, these technologies don't require expertise to stop doing.  That is, if we decide to stop doing them, we just stop, walk away, and start something new and better.

    For nuclear, however, it's that the knowledge, means, and money to safely dispose of waste that's in spent fuel pools, mothball reactors, etc. exists today and may not exist 20-30 years from now (at least at anything near the level today).  Most nuclear engineers are near retirement (it's an old industry) - we're losing the human expertise - and we're at the beginning of a long economic descent.  It's expensive and complex to manage these systems safely, so we should shut them down while we can.  Nicole Foss conducted a study of nuclear safety in Eastern Europe after the fall of the USSR, and came away with both some horror stories on what sort of safety practices went on when these nations were in disarray and some sense that in the face of peak oil this future will be visited upon many nations the world around, so we should begin our move away from nuclear.

    contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

    by barath on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 08:05:38 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  that's why I said "powerdown." (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barath, highacidity, kait, DBunn, Odysseus, cynndara

      "...transitional strategies that enable a gradual "power-down" of the excessive complexity and consumption levels and population levels."

      But if we're serious about reducing consumption levels, then we should be thanking our overlords for destroying the middle class, which was the nexus of unsustainable consumption!  

      Realistically, or idealistically as it were, what we so strenuously object to is not that our consumption levels are being reduced, but that it's being done in an odious manner: overlords imposing their will upon the masses, and treating the masses as another mineral deposit from which wealth can be extracted.  Our hardwired mammalian sense of fairness is outraged by the spectacle of plutocrats in private jets while working people get turned out into the streets to fend for themselves.  

      It's the difference between "we're in it together" (mammal paradigm) vs. "every man for himself" with an element of "dog eat dog" (cannibalism), all dictated by the reptilian paradigm of capitalism.  

      As for nuclear power, I'll leave it as an "agree to disagree" but at least your opposition occurs in an intelligent context, which is a good basis for further debates if we should choose to go there.  

      BTW, I should mention: in the last decade I spent a couple of years doing design engineering for @ 250 MW of utility-scale wind, and I've been eco-active since about age 9, and read The Limits to Growth at age 16 or 17 and immediately got the message.  I built my own refrigeration system, my own graywater system, and generally maintain a low-impact lifestyle.  That curve you posted comes from The Limits to Growth, and if you look closely, the point at which the shit hits the fan particularly hard is the point at which we are old enough to become "surplus population."  

      "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 06:23:56 AM PDT

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      •  Random question (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        highacidity, Odysseus
        I should mention: in the last decade I spent a couple of years doing design engineering for @ 250 MW of utility-scale wind, and I've been eco-active since about age 9, and read The Limits to Growth at age 16 or 17 and immediately got the message.  I built my own refrigeration system, my own graywater system, and generally maintain a low-impact lifestyle.

        Are you a physicist or a mechanical engineer?  Just curious what background you acquired to work on such projects.

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 06:56:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  background stuff: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          arlene, barath, cynndara

          Most of my life I've been in telecoms, and I'm a PBX engineer (commercial telephone switching systems).  I'm not quite as smart as Obama but I'm "smart enough" to be able to apply general method to a pretty wide range of fields, and I learn fast.

          The wind gig was one of those, and I knew people.  The DIY household infrastructure is ....hell, I want to say "pretty easy" but that's what everyone says who does stuff like that.  I've also got a stack of unpatented inventions (thanks to not having the dough to do the patent processes), most of which are in sustainable technology, and a few of which were a couple of decades ahead of their time.  

          Know what's really frustrating?  Being a borderline-genius with no access to the means of utilizing most of it.  Talk about wasted resources: there are probably a couple hundred thousand good brains in America going more or less to waste right this minute.  Lucky me, at least I get to use mine enough of the time to keep from going batshit crazy.    

          Know what else is really frustrating?  Being someone whose primary connection with others is at the level of intellectual/creative synergy, in a culture where the accepted norm for primary connections between people is sex.  Finding even a few others who operate at the same level is also "enough" to keep from going batshit crazy.  

          "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 04:23:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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