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Luke Heinsohn
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I like the idea of cleaning up the mess we’ve made but if we keep adding to the mess at an increasing rate (“rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2”) then will the problem not remain even after these efforts are made? ...another interesting "experiment." Yes, this would lessen the effects of a growing mess if it can capture as much CO2 as the world produces but this only gets rid of the “growing” part and leaves us with the “mess.” I only question the recycling rate of these technologies – it has to be high enough to not only offset future production but also chip away at the existing mess we’ve made. I like what Steve Hamburg wrote in the final paragraph about mitigating emissions being the “first, second, third and tenth” priority. This should be the focus rather than recycling efforts until technologies produce a rate so great that it cleans up the mess for good. I, also, hesitate at Global Thermostat’s talk about making transportation fuels by combining CO2 with hydrogen extracted from water. Eisenberger says that it solves the energy scrutiny and that any country can become an oil producer because “everyone has water and CO2 from air.” I have to disagree and think that countries in serious droughts, or in areas with violent disputes over water allocation, or even developed countries that have only experienced political disputes over these issues like those in our own country, have significant amounts of water to spare just to produce transportation fuels for others around the world when maybe their day’s activity revolves around finding water for their families to use. Many people do have water, but many people have little to spare. Even this supply of water is not guaranteed in the future so this process will become much more costly in the future.
It is surprising to me that he makes the jump from the three pillars of sustainability to supposedly alternate definitions of each. The most surprising assumed definition is that of the Economic pillar, which is to end extreme poverty. First of all, I think this goal is misplaced. I do not see how ending extreme poverty will be economical for those who are not extremely poor. If ending extreme poverty means a more equal distribution of wealth, i.e. doing our best "Robin Hood" impression, then it will prove to be economically detrimental to some who are not extremely poor. Rather than being within the economic pillar, this ideal has to do more with the social pillar. There's nothing wrong with the idea - not wanting anyone in the world to experience extreme poverty is a just and valiant standard to strive for - but it will require tackling the challenge of differing values like Sachs mentions in the final paragraph. Again, he really points out the obvious in the final paragraph that achieving sustainable development, and his specific economic goal, is going to take combined efforts of technology, market incentives, government regulation, and that values will take a more fundamental role in all of this. I'd like to think that this is not the case and that humans care more for other humans than they do for luxury, gluttony, and comfortability but he fails to point out the reality. The truth is that this combined effort is only necessary because unless it is profitable to end extreme poverty (improving the single, and sole, bottom line that the majority are concerned with), then it will likely never happen without tremendous reform in each of these areas. Intriguing thoughts by Sachs but it seems like it's back to square one at the end of the article.
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Jan 31, 2012