What I’m Reading: A Friday Link Roundup

Salon.com

Our Plastic Oceans – Counterpunch
The world’s oceans are predicted to have more plastic than fish by 2050. This is of course, using current numbers – nevermind that plastic usage will only increase in the coming years. So expect this milestone to be reached sooner than that.

What in the World is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017? – The Atlantic
It should be pretty evident to most of us why this is happening. But if it’s not, this article from the Atlantic sheds a little light on the situation. If course, it makes the mistake of thinking that the current epicurean foodie boom is different from previous consumer materialism – it’s only different in that your status symbols are now comestible, not usable.

Inconvenient energy fact: It takes 79 solar workers to produce same amount of electric power as one coal worker – AEI
Both this piece and the NYT article that its responding to miss the point in a pretty spectacular way: that energy production itself, to meet even a fraction of current global demands, is environmentally and economically unsustainable. However, I do have a soft spot for journalists who take the piss out of renewables, simply because it’s verboten to do so and not because the miracle of wind and solar has any basis in reality. The faux-sustainability liberals of the NYT-reading sort see “jobs” and get excited – clearly, solar is a boon, right? – however, that many workers producing only a tiny fraction of fossil fuel energy does point to massive structural inefficiencies: inefficient technology, and inefficient distribution of funds. Because where is all that money coming from? Most of it, to be frank, isn’t coming from direct profits, it’s coming from government subsidies. And eventually, all subsidies must come to an end. We know what slashed subsidies do to industries: look no further than the fate of nuclear. Solar is, indeed, a bubble waiting to burst. All cheap energy is a bubble waiting to burst.

The trouble with infrastructure – Resource Insights
Kurt Cobb explains, pretty succinctly, why complex systems (in this case, physical infrastructure) either grow or fail, and why there’s no in-between.

It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon – Salon
Until zero wasters can get their heads out of their asses and start talking about the bigger picture, the zero waste movement will be remembered as nothing more than a self-indulgent fad that left its believers just as unprepared for the harsh future ahead of us as any climate change denialism:

It is considerations like these that have led risk scholars — some at top universities around the world — to specify disturbingly high probabilities of global disaster in the future. For example, the philosopher John Leslie claims that humanity has a 30 percent chance of extinction in the next five centuries. Less optimistically, an “informal” survey of experts at a conference hosted by Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute puts the probability of human extinction before 2100 at 19 percent. And Lord Martin Rees, co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, argues that civilization has no better than a 50-50 likelihood of enduring into the next century.
To put this number in perspective, it means that the average American is about 4,000 times more likely to witness civilization implode than to die in an “air and space transport accident.” A child born today has a good chance of living to see the collapse of civilization, according to our best estimates.

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