Paul Rubin has written an article in WSJ regarding Environmentalism as a type of religion which I find quite interesting. The factors he lists as similarities are pretty dead on:

• There is a holy day—Earth Day.

• There are food taboos.

• There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful.

• Belief systems are embraced with no logical basis.

• There are sacred structures.

• Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners.

One could also add:

• Prophet - Al Gore.

• Scripture - The IPCC reports.

However, environmentalism is far from being alone in the specter of issues and causes that people become fundamental about, and many political opinions tend to get stuck because people refuse to change their them - even when faced with overwhelming contradictory evidence. This is not confined to the "right", and possibly afflicts more people on the "left". Scientists routinely refutes diverging opinions with ad hominem argumentation, freezing out those who disagree, withholding resources etc.  Economists (sorta one myself) believe their social science is a hard science with evidence based facts proved by complex mathematics. Attempting to critcize a parenting is something I can absolutely forget about since I don't have children myself. Even our hero Einstein refused to accept quantum theory.

What are your opinions on this subject? Can these opinions-turned-fundamentalism be compared to religion?

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Locally grown food: "Consumers are increasingly being told that “local” foods—typically regarded as those grown within 100 miles of the point of purchase—are environmentally superior to foods that are grown farther away. But research suggests that this is not the case (Shimizu and Desrochers, 2008). The transport of agricultural products actually accounts for a relatively small proportion of the total energy-related emissions generated in food production (Weber and Matthews, 2008). In fact, in many instances, imports have a smaller environmental “footprint” than locally produced food."

Glass could essentially be dumped into the deep ocean and return in a few millenia as sand. Paper should probably be burned and the ashes returned to the foresting areas so similate nature's way of recycling. Metals should of course be recycled. Plastics can be burned to produce energy and reduce landfills.

"New research shows, albeit unintentional, that generating electricity with solar panels can also be a very bad idea. In some cases, producing electricity by solar panels releases more greenhouse gases than producing electricity by gas or even coal." http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2008/03/the-ugly-side-o.html

In much of Europe and the US it is cold 7-10 months out of the year. A regular light bulb demands less resources to produce and does not contain heavy metals such as mercury and quicksilver. It burnes much more energy, the vast majority being turned into heat, which essentially only reduces the heating bill. In warmer regions the low energy bulbs make sense, but not in i.e. Northern Europe or Canada.

I can't find the study at the moment, but someone had calculated the life cycle environmental impact of different car models. As I recall it was the VW Polo which was the least polluting. It would be much better for the environment if people did not lug around 4 unused seats and a few m2 of empty air at all time.

 

I didn't really want to discuss the environment, but it is a good example that people become dogmatic to the point where suboptimal solutions are preferred because the sides have become too entrenched.

"locally grown" has different cost analyses considering location and product. No single study trying to make grand declarations can have any value. Growing locally is NOT only about carbon footprint, it is about divulging of information and local economies. Cash crops do not benefit anyone other than a few corporations, that does not help humans.

Locally grown food: Added a link a previous post with claims the exact opposite. There is no definate proof that locally grown food tastes better or is healthier.

Glass and paper recycling have been the subject of other posts, a number of which disproves your claim. Though for glass, reusing is an alternative which is undeniably very good.

Solar panels: Extracting, refining, and melting silisium are all very high impact activities. They are a good idea in sunny (desert) areas, but in Europe, which can be blanketed by clouds for a large part of the year, they are not a solution.

If I replace 400 watts of regular lightbulbs with 100w low energy bulbs (which contains heavy metals), I will just crank up whichever other heating device I have. 95% of the power drawn by regular bulbs are emitted as heat. In warm areas where the a/c blasts for much of the year, low energy bulbs are of course a very good solution.

Much of car emissions happens in the production of cars. Someone has found out  that it takes 113 BTUs to produce a Prius. A Highlander takes 107 BTUs. A small clean diesel car has much higher MPGs than a Prius, and much lower energy requirements to produce.

 

If you truly want to support the environment, start with yourself. Get a job close to where you live or vice versa, so you can walk or ride a bike. You choose where you live and you choose where you work. Eat meat at most twice a week, livestock are a major source of pollution. Eat more legumes, they are good for you and have a low environmental impact. Eat 20% than the recommended daily intake, you will feel better and live longer. Buy a smaller car, how often do you really need 5 seats? Don't buy more clothes than you can wear.

My recommendations will lead to a reduction in consumption, which is really the major cause of environmental issues. Most of the bigger topics above are only fixes so we can continue overconsumption - but they are the ones which seem to engange people.

 

 

 

 

 

Much of car emissions happens in the production of cars. Someone has found out  that it takes 113 BTUs to produce a Prius. A Highlander takes 107 BTUs. A small clean diesel car has much higher MPGs than a Prius, and much lower energy requirements to produce.

 

Generally, it's not enough to just think in the present.  I would think that the rate of technological development applied to hybrid cars would typically be commensurate with economic incentive.  Wide scale commercial production of hybrids is still fairly new.  There are likely considerable gains still to be made in improving efficiency in production and in vehicle performance.

 

The article ran the comparison of buying a new Prius vs. a Used Corolla.  It's an interesting comparison, but if we're going to do this as a means of comparing environmental impact, New Priuses will also enter into the used market in their life cycle as well.

 

You mentioned buying a diesel, but with the right market support, electric/ diesel hybrids will be made available.  Coca-Cola already uses this technology in some of their trucks.  VW had already made a Golf electric/ diesel hybrid (not sure if it's on the market yet).  It takes time for technologies to develop and improve.  We can't start at the finish, nor can we be excessively conservative in adopting new technologies.

 

I suppose other factors to take into consideration is that not all energy consumption is equal.  Without knowing the energy source during production, it's hard to do a direct environmental comparison.

 

Exercising some low level google-fu (have to get back to work) I found the following article: source: inautonews.com

 


The Tsutsumi plant in Japan is one of five Toyota global Eco-Factories (Burnaston in the UK is another) that are designed to minimise environmental impact and develop best practices for adoption elsewhere.It has held the ISO14001 “green standard” for environmental management since 1996, pioneering innovations in energy saving, waste management and recycling.

 

Just as new Prius can use solar energy to keep its cabin cool when parked, Tsutsumi meets half its electricity requirements with a 50,000m2 array of solar panels that can generate 2,000kW of energy an hour. The rest of its energy demands are met by an efficient gas co-generation system.

 

To ensure only as much power as needed is used, energy-saving lighting has been installed and patrols are carried out to monitor usage. A control system cuts electricity use when the plant is non-operational and the building of sunlight ducts allows more natural light to be introduced into working areas.

 

Even the building itself helps clean up the local environment, with 22,000m2 of the assembly plant being covered in photocatalytic paint. This reacts to sunlight by releasing active oxygen into the atmosphere, which helps break down harmful substances such as nitrogen oxides (NOx). To help offset CO2 emissions, Tsutsumi workers and people from the local community joined forces to plant 50,000 trees around the factory site in 2008.

 

Tsutsumi sends no waste to landfill and cut the amount that is incinerated by 82 per cent to 730 tonnes between 1999 and 2006, with the future goal of reducing that figure to zero.

 

Between 2003 and 2007 CO2 emissions from the plant were reduced by 36 per cent. During the same period, the total amount of waste produced was reduced by 21 per cent between; use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was down by 48 per cent; and 14 per cent less water was used.

 

Now, does that suddenly mean that the Prius is the right choice?  Of course not.  It's circumstantial.  People's needs and considerations are all different.  To me, the important thing is that consumers do some level of research.  Perhaps they don't make the best choice, but if they consistently make good choices, that creates a frame work in which we can collectively make progress.

 

Great points Neal.

 

I think a lot of people forget that environmentalism is still new to us. It's going to take awhile before everything is as efficient as can be.

Very well written Dallas! Great points!
There are clearly only two extreme choices in this straw man derby. Free, White, Patriotic, True, Blue Mercans. And gay pedophile tree huggers.

"And gay pedophile tree huggers."

 

Probably communist too.

I was aiming at those who don't see the middle road. More often than not, it's better than either extremes.
Meh, anything and everything can be followed religiously, but that doesn't make everything a religion.  I mean, if we're going to spin things this badly, Justin Bieber-ism is also a religion.
Hey, don't give those Bieber fans any ideas.

Paper recycling is questionable from the fuel for the trucks to pick the stuff up to  the toxic bleaching agents used to remove the ink to  the generally inferior paper produced.  Most paper companies plant trees specifically to harvest for paper so it is a renewable resource that sequesters carbon at the same time. I think that qualifies as  a win win.  One could argue that burning paper could produce energy in a carbon neutral way similar to the burning of wood.  Scrubbing the  chemicals out of the paper would create the same problems as removing them in the recycle process so that is not a gain. Interesting aside .The Sierra Club was once called to task for printing their news letter on virgin paper and their response was that their donors were accustom to high end  products.

Also interesting if the factionalization of environmentalists concerning the solar farms of the western deserts.  Some are more concerned with the environmental impact on the desert eco system than the use of the abundant solar resource to  supply clean energy.  Who wins or loses on that deal?

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