Decoupling Nonsense (podcast episode 35)
Technological innovation cannot take the environmental destruction out of economic growth. Get the real facts, not the blind faith and hope, about whether “decoupling” can allow more and more “prosperity” for more and more people without also delivering more and more ecosystem collapse.
Decoupling is Not a Thing
In this episode, Dave and Erika take serious exception to Andrew McAfee’s misguided thesis in his latest book, More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next. Erika really likes Sam Harris’ podcast, Making Sense, but when it comes to his episode interviewing McAfee, Dave assures her it is utter nonsense.
Individual Action vs. Waiting for System Change
Do individual actions really matter in the face of the climate crisis? Or are they a distraction from critically needed system change? Should we all be flying less, reducing our meat consumption, and/or having fewer children? Or do we wait until government regulations incentivize us to behave better? Erika and Dave agree with Greta Thunberg, but add a few more reasons to do the right thing, and do it now.
They review a piece by BBC Chief Environment Consultant Justin Rowlatt that includes a conversation with Greta Thunberg, plus insights from Princeton University Professor Peter Singer (“the world’s most influential living philosopher”) and Professor Kelly Fielding of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. These experts agree that our actions do matter, and we have an opportunity to be the change we want to see. Following Greta’s lead, we can and should signal to others with our actions, if we want to inspire the next environmental movement. Spoiler alert: Free will is real!
Can the Next President Get Us to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions?
Presidential candidates are promising to deliver the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions targeted by the IPCC. Politicians’ climate policy platforms have been characterized as an “auction of promises,” by analysts. Are these promises realistic? Don’t get your hopes up. What will it really take to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050? Would you believe we have to turn on 1500 new wind turbines every day, if we’re not going to give up our overconsuming ways and our quest for eternal economic growth? Good luck with that! Erika and Dave discuss some interesting analysis by Roger Pielke in Forbes.
How to Be Sustainable
Last, but certainly not least, we have a quick chat with a hero at California State University Northridge. Lecturer Dev Vrat teaches classes in sustainability, and caught our attention with an excellent list of…wait for it…individual actions you can take to behave more sustainably. The list was created by his students and published in the student newspaper. We were particularly impressed that the list includes choosing to adopt rather than bring new children into the world.
Climate Change Action: We Can’t All be Greta, But Your Choices Have a Ripple Effect – BBC piece by Justin Rowlatt
The Great Uncoupling- A Conversation with Andrew McAfee – Making Sense podcast
How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources: The Very Nature of Technological Progress is Being Radically Transformed – book review
Decoupling is Dead! Long Live Degrowth! – Resilience.org piece we recommend reading
How to be Sustainable – guide by CSUN Students
Planet of the Humans – new film
Free Will Is Real – some recommended reading
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