Plastic



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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2008-09-08 21:37:08

(YouTube video your browser isn't picking up)

The man has a point.

But this means I need to find something else to rant about. Dangit! Anybody got any good ranting topics?

Posted by http://jbrett.pip.verisignlabs.com at 2008-09-09 07:37:35
Is there a link missing in this post? I'm very confused. Also, John suggests breakfast cereal as a ranting topic.
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Posted by stak at 2008-09-09 08:22:29
There's an embedded YouTube video. Apparently Firefox doesn't like object tags. Boo for crappy standards compliance. I've updated it to include a link.
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Posted by stak at 2008-09-09 09:03:25
Hm. Turns out YouTube's embedding code is the stuff that's not standards compliant. Fixed better now.
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Posted by GregT at 2008-09-10 10:49:55
Hey cool... this exactly lines up with my philosophical musings. Not to use such arguments as a justification for lazyness/wastefulness, but it seems like our current unsustainability is "in our nature" so to speak. Who's to say we're not initiating environmental change as part of a larger system we don't understand.

I see environmentalism as a self-interested struggle for our own species survival more than anything. :)
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Posted by Eric at 2008-09-10 12:52:42
As a refutation of "environmentalism" (used in a general sense, if you will), Carlin's point is largely a straw man. "Conserving the planet" (UiaGS, IYW) actually refers to preservation of things like the biosphere, as it has existed in recent history, various atmospheric gas levels, as they existed in recent history, ocean levels, as they existed in recent history, etc., etc.

I have no doubt that the Earth, as a planet full stop, is more than resilient enough to survive global warming, rising sea levels, poisoning of all kinds of environments (from former forests to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). Hell, in a few million years a new intelligent life would almost certainly develop.

But as a species, there will be calamity and catastrophe if we continue to be so cavalier about these (to take an extremely conservative* viewpoint) human-accelerated changes. We could literally send ourselves back to the dark ages if we're not careful. At best, we avoid this. At worst, we live more comfortably with the planet. To me, it's a tradeoff worth making.

* - Ironic that that word should come up in its other sense
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Posted by stak at 2008-09-10 22:37:33
Sure. I don't particularly care if our species survives or not (or if it goes back to the dark ages as you say). If we don't, well, it's our own damn fault. I do care if we screw up the planet for other species because of our bumbling ways, which is mostly why I ranted about this so much. I think I ended up with the sort of tunnel vision that most people get when they get obsessed about something, and this video was just the trigger that made me take a step back and see the bigger picture.
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Posted by Varun at 2008-09-11 08:48:55
There was an interesting article about 18 months ago (I think in the dead-tree version of Scientific American, could be wrong), with interesting - and to me, as a reasonably skeptical outsider, persuasive - evidence to suggest that chimpanzees were undergoing their own version of a stone age. The article suggested that there was a slow but steady increase in chimpanzee tool complexity, as evidenced both by finds in the Great Lakes region, and records that survive from about 200-300 years ago. One of the issues that the article remarked upon on was that when homo * was undergoing its evolutionary tract through the Stone Age, resources were plentiful, and particularly, elements and minerals useful to trigger the iron and bronze ages were plentiful supply at earth's surface. Additionally, land was plentiful and unpolluted, and a ready supply of food could be found through hunting and gathering, neither of which is possible now.

It was a bit of a throwaway section but it really changed my perspective on things: we've not only screwed up our planet for ourselves, and our progeny, we've also basically ensured no other intelligent species that ever evolves on earth can ever make it because we've used up all the useful resources on earth that allowed the initial stages of technological development of our own. I'm sure in several hundred million years, once humanity is gone - either to the stars or extinct - there might be another chance for another intelligent species to develop, but for all practical purposes, we're talking about a time as far in the future from now as the Cambrian explosion is in the past. Certainly, just about every species presently on earth is screwed, because we've used up all the resources they could use to bootstrap their own civilizations. Kind of a sobering thought.
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Posted by stak at 2008-09-11 18:47:08
I'm not sure we'd be leaving them with less resources. Instead of raw materials, we're providing them with pre-built tools. I'm sure there's many a hammer in your nearest landfill. No need to reinvent it :)
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Posted by Varun at 2008-09-11 20:14:26
A highly anthropomorphic view... what happens when it's, say, an intelligent anteater? Or a cat (and I'm already convinced that they're in charge...)? Or how about, heck, Tines?
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Posted by Fai at 2008-09-13 01:52:06
I think it's true that we've used up the resources that we have used to get here. But your argument implies there's only one path for intelligence to evolve and it must have all the things stated above. I think there are many paths and a different species could find a different path. Like kats says above, a new species that lives off of smog and plastic will do wonderfully well.
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Posted by Varun at 2008-09-14 17:23:15
Indeed, except until the last 100 (possibly 150 years), plastic and smog were not naturally occurring on earth. It will be a long time before species that are capable of naturally respiring on plastic or smog will evolve. Evolution is quick, but it still takes time to get from completely alien material to respiring on plastic. (c.f.: evolution of organisms that respire on oxygen...)

Hence returning to my point - for the foreseeable future, we've screwed the planet for ourselves, our descendants and other species.
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Posted by Fai at 2008-09-14 23:10:42
but not forever. a blink in the history of earth.
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Posted by Varun at 2008-09-15 12:09:26
You sure have a long blink! :)
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Posted by stak at 2008-09-22 18:49:03
How quickly you are proven wrong. (Not that I'm complaining about this new development)
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Posted by Fai at 2008-09-23 22:50:56
Wasn't there another article a few months back about a high school student in waterloo that bred a bacteria that could decompose plastic bags?
It's not all bad.
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Posted by Fai at 2008-09-13 01:59:28
This is basically what I wanted to post as a response to your "I'm a broken record" post, except, you know, with better words and funny.

I also agree with him and the other posters here that one of the most annoying things about the "environmental" cause is that it's ridiculously hypocritical. It doesn't strive to "save the planet", it strives to keep the planet in a stasis that we know we can survive in as we are very uncertain about our ability to adapt, event to a 1 degree global change, not to mention, meteors or ice ages.
And now it's becoming taboo to *not* be environmentally conscious. le sigh.
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