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Some good recent articles in the New York Times:
First, on the article about climate change, here’s a quote I find interesting:
“What is needed, Mr. Sachs and others say, is the development of radically advanced low-carbon technologies, which they say will only come about with greatly increased spending by determined governments on what has so far been an anemic commitment to research and development. A Manhattan-like Project, so to speak.”
I’ve thought this way for a long time, and here’s what I don’t understand: A Manhattan-like project would in the end make an unbelievable amount of money for the US. The first country that becomes the recognized leader in green technology is going to make a fortune because everyone else is going to scramble to buy it. There have been studies showing such an investment would produce tons of jobs and money at the same time. Yet, no government wants to do it, especially not the US.
Figuring out why is tougher. Assuming it’s a conspiracy by the oil companies seems overly simplistic, for a few reasons. First, the oil companies are in a unique position to be those new energy leaders. They have an almost limitless income stream to spend on R&D and if they were successful would ensure their license to print money extends much longer than oil will last.
Second, holding down green energy R&D in the US would be very short-sighted, as it’s obvious someone is going to get there eventually. This would be a stronger point if we didn’t also see the US auto industry slowly killing itself by bribing the government to keep fuel standards low enough that they can still sell their cars. It is completely obvious that this is only serving to slow their demise while also reducing the incentive to invest in better technology, which is circularly also ensuring their demise.
The second article has several causes of the growing worldwide food crisis. The one I found most interesting was this:
“First, there’s the march of the meat-eating Chinese — that is, the growing number of people in emerging economies who are, for the first time, rich enough to start eating like Westerners. Since it takes about 700 calories’ worth of animal feed to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef, this change in diet increases the overall demand for grains.”
It’s really alarming how much more resources are consumed for meat production than fruit and vegetables. Another comparison is that the average agricultural land area used per person in North America is about 1.4 hectares. A vegetarian uses about 0.2 hectares, or one sixth. This is one of the reasons I like to make an effort to eat less meat than I used to.