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THE LUNGS OF THE WORLD - a question for you

 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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24 October 2011 17:55
 

(quoted from a chocolate bar wrapper)

“Rainforests have been described as the lungs of our planet.  In fact, the Amazon Rainforest alone provides more than 20% of the world’s oxygen supply.  These forests cover only 6% of the earth’s surface, yet they are home to over half the plant and animal species in the world!  As many as 30 million species live in this lush habitat, including many valuable medicinal plants (25% of pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients).  The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells.  Seventy percent of these plants are found in the rainforest.

To meet demands for timber and cropland use, an area of rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed every second.  When these forests are cut down, the plants and animals that live in them are destroyed, and many species are at risk of becoming extinct.  We are in danger of losing Earth’s greatest biological treasure if measures are not taken immediately to protect the lush rainforest.”  (end quote)

In your opinion, what percentage of the planet’s rainforests will be destroyed before there is a serious united world effort to protect what remains?
50 percent?  75 percent?  No U.N. action to save the lungs of the world?  Keep in mind that in the U.S., 96% of the original old-growth coast redwoods have been logged.  Now shall we tell Brazil to cease and desist?  Indonesia?  Families, jobs, industry and profit are more important than jungles, right? 

Did the chocolate people say we’re losing an area the size of a football field every second?  86,400 football fields every day?

Human population increases an average of 203,800 people every day.

[ Edited: 24 October 2011 18:01 by unsmoked]
 
 
robbrownsyd
 
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25 October 2011 03:23
 

And on 31st October this year the world population of human creepy crawlies is expected to hit 7 billion. Can this go on? Will there be room to breath soon even if there are any trees left to produce oxygen?

What is to be done? Would the easiest thing to do be the best thing to do? That is,do nothing and just say, Oh well,  let’em chop all the forest down; let ‘em keep breeding and starving. What is that to me?”

Is such a response viable? I’d like to hear GAD and ASD on this.

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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25 October 2011 11:46
 

It’s one of those things everyone cares about, but no one knows what to do about. There are about a dozen other problems similar to this. I and most people I know spend most of our energy trying to pay our monthly bills, raise families, and deal with personal problems. We simply don’t have much time to devote to these issues, aside from voting. Even then, immediate and local concerns take precedence over environmental or population concerns,

 
eudemonia
 
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25 October 2011 14:32
 

But bad, bad evil, regulatory governments cannot be involved. It’s up to the free market to figure out how to solve this.

Just ask any Libertarian Conservative.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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25 October 2011 14:59
 
unsmoked - 24 October 2011 03:55 PM

To meet demands for timber and cropland use, an area of rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed every second.


Check my math here:

A football field is 160’ x 360’ (57,600 sq ft = 0.0020661157 sq mi)

The Amazon Rainforests are estimated at 2,123,562 sq mi

So at the given rate:

2,123,562 ÷ 0.0020661157 = 1027804009.233364811080037773296 seconds before total destruction.

1027804009.233364811080037773296 ÷ 60 = 17130066.8205560801846672962216 minutes

17130066.8205560801846672962216 ÷ 60 = 285501.11367593466974445493702667 hours

285501.11367593466974445493702667 ÷ 24 = 11895.879736497277906018955709444 days

11895.879736497277906018955709444 ÷ 365.242199 = 32.569839325979082460893177651249 years

I’ve heard that sort of statistic since the early ‘90s—maybe earlier (can’t say how the numbers have changed though). I’d be interested in finding out when this football field per second statistic was derived, and from what information.

[ Edited: 25 October 2011 15:54 by SkepticX]
 
 
goodgraydrab
 
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25 October 2011 15:30
 
unsmoked - 24 October 2011 03:55 PM

In your opinion, what percentage of the planet’s rainforests will be destroyed before there is a serious united world effort to protect what remains?
50 percent?  75 percent?

When there is no serious world left (eg, what the meek get to inherit).

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And conservative Atheists get all huffy when I say there’s no difference between religion and politics, right-wing politics being the religion. There’s good reason why I’m an Atheist, and equally good reason why I’m a Liberal. When there is such a skew to the right as “unaccomplished” people are viewed as sinners, the left actually comprises the “middle.”

Money: the Charles Hurwitz story

From article below:

The government became involved at this point, making a deal with the lumber company to buy some of the land for preservation. The deal between Federal and State authorities and Pacific Lumber/Maxxam Corporation offered Maxxam $480 million for less than 16 percent (10,000 acres) of the forest. According to Butterfly, the deal appears to be based on the premise that only a bare minimum of this forest land needs to be protected for endangered species like the spotted owl, marbled murellet and coho salmon to recover in the area. But no environmental impact study was ever conducted to ensure that everything necessary for the survival of the species was being done, said Butterfly. While some government leaders consider the deal a step toward sustainability, most environmental groups consider it an unacceptable band aid solution. They believe a buffer zone of 60,000 acres is needed in order to protect the habitat of the endangered and other species.

Logging is profitable business. Each redwood tree such as Butterfly’s “hostage” summons a price of around $35,000, said Redwood Mary. The private sector argues that logging provides needed resources and jobs for communities. Environmentalists, however, argue that the biodiversity of natural forests cannot be recreated. According to Butterfly and Redwood Mary, an individual can make a difference in this fight.

saralynn - 25 October 2011 09:46 AM

It’s one of those things everyone cares about, but no one knows what to do about. There are about a dozen other problems similar to this. I and most people I know spend most of our energy trying to pay our monthly bills, raise families, and deal with personal problems. We simply don’t have much time to devote to these issues, aside from voting. Even then, immediate and local concerns take precedence over environmental or population concerns,

You mean you can’t be a Julia “Butterfly” Hill or a Redwood Mary?

Julia “Butterfly” Hill, as she is known, has refused to leave the treetop, defying the lumbering project that would tear her tree down and the rest of what little remains of this ancient, old growth forest along the California coast in Mendocino county.

“I gave my word to this tree, the forest, and to all people, that my feet would not touch the ground until I had done everything in my power to make the world aware of this problem and to stop the destruction,” says Butterfly in a press release by Earth First, a California-based environmental organization.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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25 October 2011 17:43
 
SkepticX - 25 October 2011 12:59 PM
unsmoked - 24 October 2011 03:55 PM

To meet demands for timber and cropland use, an area of rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed every second.


Check my math here:

A football field is 160’ x 360’ (57,600 sq ft = 0.0020661157 sq mi)

The Amazon Rainforests are estimated at 2,123,562 sq mi

So at the given rate:

2,123,562 ÷ 0.0020661157 = 1027804009.233364811080037773296 seconds before total destruction.

1027804009.233364811080037773296 ÷ 60 = 17130066.8205560801846672962216 minutes

17130066.8205560801846672962216 ÷ 60 = 285501.11367593466974445493702667 hours

285501.11367593466974445493702667 ÷ 24 = 11895.879736497277906018955709444 days

11895.879736497277906018955709444 ÷ 365.242199 = 32.569839325979082460893177651249 years

I’ve heard that sort of statistic since the early ‘90s—maybe earlier (can’t say how the numbers have changed though). I’d be interested in finding out when this football field per second statistic was derived, and from what information.

Another figure I’ve heard is that every year the earth loses an area of rainforest the size of Poland.

Last night I got to thinking, the global population can’t possibly be increasing by 203,800 people every day!  That’s like inserting a city like Madison, Wisconsin onto the planet every day!  So I figured that since 1999 the population has increased by 1 billion.  In 4380 days the human population has increased by one billion.  So let’s multiply 203,800 per day by 4380 days.  That means we come up short at only 892,644,000.  So we must be increasing at more than 203,800 per day!

Now let’s say we want to provide these 203,800 people (a new Madison, Wisconsin every day) with green electricity, wind power electricity, at least as much as the average European family uses.  (less than the average U.S. family uses).  203,800 divided by 4 gives us, let’s say, 50,000 new families every day.  Norway is presently building the world’s biggest wind turbine - a 65 million dollar monster that generates 10MW - enough to power 2000 households.  That means the world has to build 25 of these giant turbines every day to power the new Madison, Wisconsin that appears on the planet every day!

In this week’s New Yorker cover I added another poster at the bottom in the subscriber address space.

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goodgraydrab
 
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25 October 2011 19:04
 

Whatever you’re looking for, it probably can be found here.

State of the World’s Forests


The State of the World’s Forests reports on the status of forests, recent major policy and institutional developments and key issues concerning the forest sector. It makes current, reliable and policy-relevant information widely available to facilitate informed discussion and decision-making with regard to the world’s forests.

Current issue: 2011

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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26 October 2011 02:58
 
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (Rob) - 25 October 2011 01:23 AM

And on 31st October this year the world population of human creepy crawlies is expected to hit 7 billion. Can this go on? Will there be room to breath soon even if there are any trees left to produce oxygen?

What is to be done? Would the easiest thing to do be the best thing to do? That is,do nothing and just say, Oh well,  let’em chop all the forest down; let ‘em keep breeding and starving. What is that to me?”

Is such a response viable? I’d like to hear GAD and ASD on this.

We should take the action which will maximize the well-being of conscious creatures.

[ Edited: 26 October 2011 03:01 by Antisocialdarwinist]
 
 
robbrownsyd
 
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26 October 2011 07:03
 

Yes,ASD, I know you are being ironic (not to say sarcastic) but that is the way I would go.

The next step, then,  would be to decide what would maximise the wellbeing of conscious creatures. It seems to me that to achiece that maximization we would need to reduce production of new conscious creatures of the species Homo sapiens or find somewhere other than earth for the increasing numbers of them to live. The only other possibility is for us to find ways for more of us to live here whilst at the same time making less demands on the earth’s resources.

Any other ideas, anyone?

 
goodgraydrab
 
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26 October 2011 15:32
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 26 October 2011 12:58 AM

We should take the action which will maximize the well-being of conscious creatures.

Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (Rob) - 26 October 2011 05:03 AM

Any other ideas, anyone?

Let’s just say by objective measure in this example, we already ceded “maximum well-being” so that if we continue the trend, we further approach the closed-in “valley” rather than maintain a higher “peak.” The science is proof of it or we wouldn’t be discussing it as a serious life-threatening problem. This is a good example of how “science can determine human values.”  Asd and other relativist critics, however, interpret Harris’ objectivity/subjectivity formulation as, since “every human being” is not compelled or motivated by choice to do the “right thing,” then values are subjective in that one is as right or wrong as the other, or there is no right or wrong. The choice here is valuing life over money, long-term vs short-term gains. Clearly, at least half the world’s population, if they had access to the proper scientific data would support sustainable control and maintenance of the environment. We fight forest fires for many reasons, not just because some people see green paper with numbers on them when they contemplate a tree. We value having escaped with our lives over all other materialistic and sentimental loss. Further, the mechanisms of the brain that allow the two opposing motivations are scientifically investigatable. That is exactly what Harris is studying. I think it is doubtful that even those who value the “wrong” things, total destruction for monetary gains, can even be said to hold rational beliefs, very in line with religiosity. He asks, “Is it possible that certain people are incapable of wanting what they should want?” He answers, “Of course—- just as there will always be people who are unable to grasp specific facts or believe certain true propositions. As with every other description of a mental capacity or incapacity, these are ultimately statments about the human brain.” The point is, a scientific approach does provide right and wrong answers and reason(s) for them. In the end, human behavior at the higher brain level functioning is not totally instinctual or robotic and can/does constitute in many cases, after all reason and science is applied to the issue, senselessness. Harris doesn’t “guarantee to resolve every moral controversy through science. Differences of opinion will remain—- but opinions will increasingly be constrained by facts.”

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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26 October 2011 16:55
 

It’s objectively true that harvesting the rain forests will eventually decrease the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The well-being of conscious creatures which have adapted to our existing environment will slowly decrease as a result of climate change and the decreasing amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. In addition, those conscious creatures living in rain forests which are harvested will suffer an immediate decrease in well-being.

It’s also objectively true that harvesting the rain forests increases the well-being of some conscious creatures, at least in the short term: villagers who make charcoal out of rain forest trees and gain area for growing crops, people employed by the rain forest harvesting industry, greedy third-world government officials who take bribes from unscrupulous logging executives, shareholders in companies that harvest rain forests, consumers who desire the products made from rain forest trees, etc..

Whether the net effect of harvesting rain forests on WBCC is positive or negative depends on your perspective. If you’re one of the conscious creatures whose well-being is increased by harvesting them, you’ll probably perceive a net increase in WBCC. If you’re one of the conscious creatures whose well-being is decreased by harvesting them, you’ll probably perceive a net decrease in WBCC.

I myself fall into the latter category. If there was a magic button I could press that would prevent the rain forests from being harvested, I’d push it. But it’s not that easy, is it? It may well be that the cost to me of actually preventing the rain forests from being harvested would exceed the benefit. (For example, if the only way to save the rain forest was to invade South America and prevent logging by military force.) So while I’m open to the possibility that we “should” do something to save the rain forest, I’m not unconditionally in favor of saving them.

 
 
goodgraydrab
 
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26 October 2011 18:10
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 26 October 2011 02:55 PM

It’s objectively true that harvesting the rain forests will eventually decrease the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The well-being of conscious creatures which have adapted to our existing environment will slowly decrease as a result of climate change and the decreasing amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. In addition, those conscious creatures living in rain forests which are harvested will suffer an immediate decrease in well-being.

It’s also objectively true that harvesting the rain forests increases the well-being of some conscious creatures, at least in the short term: villagers who make charcoal out of rain forest trees and gain area for growing crops, people employed by the rain forest harvesting industry, greedy third-world government officials who take bribes from unscrupulous logging executives, shareholders in companies that harvest rain forests, consumers who desire the products made from rain forest trees, etc..

Whether the net effect of harvesting rain forests on WBCC is positive or negative depends on your perspective. If you’re one of the conscious creatures whose well-being is increased by harvesting them, you’ll probably perceive a net increase in WBCC. If you’re one of the conscious creatures whose well-being is decreased by harvesting them, you’ll probably perceive a net decrease in WBCC.

I myself fall into the latter category. If there was a magic button I could press that would prevent the rain forests from being harvested, I’d push it. But it’s not that easy, is it? It may well be that the cost to me of actually preventing the rain forests from being harvested would exceed the benefit. (For example, if the only way to save the rain forest was to invade South America and prevent logging by military force.) So while I’m open to the possibility that we “should” do something to save the rain forest, I’m not unconditionally in favor of saving them.

I’m still of the opinion that your analysis falls short. I also don’t believe that you’re not ultimately in favor of saving them. The consequences and repurcussions are more pervasive and wide-ranging than to think only in terms of them vs us, you vs me, and only of limited solutions or options available. At least, you distinguish between short- and long- term, but you still seem to favor short-term considerations over the long-term. There are numerable remedies to bring to bear before a final solution of invasion and prevention by military force, and for dealing with regional and short-term impacts. No one is claiming that it is easy, of course there are conditions. I’m claiming it’s solvable with everyone’s well-being in mind, including future generations. We’re not fighting nature (ie, nature isn’t preventing it), we’re wrestling with ourselves (our brains in action).

If you’re one of the conscious creatures whose well-being is increased by harvesting them, you’ll probably perceive a net increase in WBCC. If you’re one of the conscious creatures whose well-being is decreased by harvesting them, you’ll probably perceive a net decrease in WBCC.

It doesn’t end there, it’s a process. The gains and losses can be compensated for in other ways. For instance, we can significantly reduce the need for consumption of natural real growth forest products and replace them with quicker growth farmed or cultivated products, use different and/or generic or synthetic materials altogether for most of our consumption needs, we can initiate replacement industries in the areas whose people are directly economically dependent on the current system, etc, etc, etc. The same goes for replacement of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. It’s a matter of will and doing the right thing, and understanding the lack of will and resistance to change that the brain is currently allowing in a certain segment of the population.

 
 
robbrownsyd
 
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27 October 2011 04:56
 

Answerer: It’s a matter of will and doing the right thing, and understanding the lack of will and resistance to change that the brain is currently allowing in a certain segment of the population.

That’s right, Answerer. And like most hard problems that affect all of us (and other species and teh planet as a whole) it boils down to the moral issues, to what really matters, to what’s right and what’s wrong. It boils down to intrinsic values.

In my post above I asked why it should bother me whether the forests are all destroyed and whether people end up breeding to the point where they are starving by the billion. What is that to me? I have no children who will suffer and I have enough to see me through personally.

And yet… It does seem to matter. I’d like to see it fixed even though I won’t be here to enjoy a fixed up world. The world, life, well-being have intrinsic value. That is why I tend towards moral realism. I think there are certain things/states that are just good in themselves.

 
Skipshot
 
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27 October 2011 08:28
 

Gee, Rob and unsmoked, you make extinction of our species sound like a bad thing.  We’ve been doing our best to fuck up the planet in the name of the almighty dollar for as long as we’ve been able to fuck it up, and I don’t see that effort ending any time soon.  Not that the efforts to stop it are in vain, but when 7 billion people put each of their demands on the planet something’s gotta give.  The smart money is on Mother Nature coming out as the winner, and she doesn’t care what form life takes as long as it lives.

When Chuang-tzu was about to die, his disciples signified their wish to give him a grand burial. “I shall have heaven and earth”, he said, “for my coffin and its shell; the sun and moon for my two round symbols of jade; the stars and constellations for my pearls and jewels; will not the provisions for my interment be complete? What would you add to them?” The disciples replied: “We are afraid that the crows and kites will eat our master.” Chuang-tzu rejoined: “Above, the crows and kites will eat me; below, the mole-crickets and ants will eat me; to take from those and give to these would only show your partiality.” (Quotes from James Legge: The Texts of Taoism, vol.XXXIX).

 
robbrownsyd
 
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27 October 2011 11:33
 

I agree with you, Skip. It doesn’t matter whether we personally, or even whether we as a species, survive. The universe as a simple collection of matter and energy doesn’t care. It cannot care. On that level we are unimportant.

Beyond that, you and I differ. The universe is more than a simple agglomeration of matter and energy

Life itself and consciousness somehow seem important in the grand scheme of things. They are of value because they make the universe more than what it would be without them. Not in the way that the universe may or may not be better with or without stones or even trees. Consciousness has an emergent value beyond those things. It rises above those things the more self-aware life becomes. Stones or trees cannot want anything let alone want to make things more ordered or better or greater or more beautiful. Consciousness on the other hand does affect the universe in a way that unconscious matter, alive or not, cannot. That’s what makes consciousness important and valuable in itself. It-emerges from life as life emerges from matter and at each level of emergence we have something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

There is nothing spooky about this. Nothing woo-ish.

If a higher order state such as life is inevitable under the laws of nature that regulate our universe (and I think life was inevitable and that we’ll find it is ubiquitous in our universe) then it was only a matter of time before consciousness emerged. You may ask what makes consciousness and self-consciousness so wonderful? I think I explained that above and I can only answer that, if you cannot see how beautiful they are or understand how powerful they are, then I will never be able to explain to you why they are important.

The upshot, if my view is correct, is that we need to care for life and consciousness and maximise the well-being of consciousness so that it can progress - so that things can get better, greater, more beautiful. The better things are the more intrinsically valuable they are.

I’m still sorting all this out in my own mind. It is what leads me to suspect that there may be something to moral realism. I want to explore this because I do not know. And yet I will always want to know. When I stop wanting to know, that will be the time to die.  I agree with Voltaire who said that he honours the man (I would have said person) who seeks truth, but despises the man who claims to have found it. I do not want to be dishonourable or dispicable.

So, when you guys say that moral relativism is the ‘truth’ you cannot blame me for being wary. I think the jury is still out and will always be out on what the final truth is. But whatever the final truth is it will have nothing to do with gods or the supernatural, neither of which exist as far as I can tell.

[ Edited: 27 October 2011 13:23 by robbrownsyd]
 
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