mfioretti: environmental impact*

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  1. The transition could begin with more oversight over business practices and setting labor protections and compensation standards that guarantee workers’ rights and equity. Cheap assembly-line jobs could be converted to less energy-intensive, technology-driven manufacturing work, not in mega-factories but in smaller-scale, cooperative environments. Such a process is “circular,” but it’s also humane, and recognizes the need for sustainable jobs as well as sustainable products, to truly “close the loop” of production—by returning wealth to communities while recycling the resources that form the fruit both of their loom and their labor.

    A circularity movement requires circular thinking not just within corporations, but across society: exchanging dialogue with impacted communities in workplaces, farms, or unions—and engaging people who understand that grassroots circularity means consuming consciously, in balance with nature, and reinvesting in holistic community development. For the glamorous designers rethinking their brands, making a circular economy work means sharing that lofty vision with those whose lives most depend on it.
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  2. Being at home means using more energy by keeping the lights on and watching TV. But it also means less travel, and it means that fewer people are outside operating offices and stores. So overall in 2012, we saved 1,700 trillion British thermal units (BTU) of heat, or 1.8 percent of the national total, according to an analysis published today in the journal Joule. That's about how much energy Kentucky produced in all of 2015. Specifically in 2012, Americans spent one day less traveling and one week less in buildings other than their homes when compared to a decade earlier. The trend of staying indoors is especially strong for those ages 18 to 24: the youths spent 70 percent more time at home than the general population. At the other end of the age spectrum, those 65 and older were the only group that spent more time outside the home compared to 2003. Next, the researchers want to look at energy consumption changes in other countries as a result of lifestyle changes.
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  3. Plastic is polluting our oceans, killing wildlife, and damaging our health, and there are widespread calls to get rid of it. But it isn’t as simple as wishing the pervasive material away.

    If we were to get rid of plastic today, the loss of the primary form of food packaging would make hundreds of thousands of people sick. Millions would be starving or dead within the year. Instead of just focusing on ridding the world of plastic, we need to address the underlying systems that churns it out: a global food production system with deeply skewed priorities driven by consumer demands.

    The way we’re going, a great deal, if not most, of that plastic will end up on landfills, in turtles’ stomachs, or in our bodies.

    to envision a world without plastic would require us to first change the basic fabric of how our societies function.

    A major reason that plastic exists today is because people want affordable and conveniently sourced food on their table. In order to meet this desire, we have developed centralized food supply chains that criss-cross our countries and the oceans. These supply chains are also driven by monoculture crop production, which allows companies economies of scale.

    Beyond serving our own taste buds, plastic is huge part of the battle against malnutrition in the developing world. People in developing countries are less likely to eat enough fruit and vegetables, and according to the World Health Organisation, about 1.7-million deaths worldwide (almost 3% of all deaths) are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption. If plastic was not so pervasive for food preservation, more communities could suffer from malnutrition.

    If we want to get rid of plastic—and there are many compelling reasons why we should—we need to change the way food production and transportation works, as well as check our desires to have cheap, convenient foods whenever we want them.

    As long as we have centralized food production, we will have plastic.
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  4. There has been a lot of debate about the real benefits of local production, especially that last-mile delivery is more harmful to the environment than the benefits it brings. In your experience, what is the ecological footprint of a product that has been globally designed and locally manufactured?

    Any production that is not hyperlocal ie. from materials sourced within a very short supply chain, has to find its way to the consumer somehow. With respect to environmental concern, the ‘last mile’ is a question of the existing production paradigm finding the most efficient and low carbon way to achieve its objective. I’m not sure that the last mile debate concerning the most carbon-efficient delivery by a globalised supply system can be compared to local production. Local production will have ‘last miles’ (and more energy used in transportation, depending on where the materials were sourced for the production), but in general, I’d be less worried about lots of last miles from local production, than many more tens of thousands of miles of transportation required with ‘remote’ production.

    It’s also worth noting that shipping is responsible for 17% of global emissions, but neither shipping and aviation are accounted for in international climate change negotiations due to the difficulty in allocating emissions ie. do they belong to the producing or consuming country? In general, local has many benefits, but it’s simplistic to assume local always equals ‘good’. It depends on so many things, for example, is the activity occurring in a water-scarce environment? How intensive is the production? Is the power source for the products generated from renewable energy?

    Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is one way of assessing the ecological cost-benefit of different methods of production, but it can get quite complicated. Descriptions can offer a sense of the impacts, however, measuring these and making the trade-offs is less clear and requires not only a lot of data but a lot of consideration and interpretation.

    Before even considering ecological footprints of production, one of the first things cities could do is look into ‘boomerang trade’ – the new economics foundation produced a report on this activity in the UK, where similar goods are being traded and transported across continents, or across the globe. There are also ridiculous examples, such as what I have dubbed ‘frequent flyer prawns’ – shrimp being flown to Thailand from Scotland, and then back because the labour needed to shell them is cheaper in Thailand.

    Trade used to be about genuine comparative advantage. If economics is supposed to be about the efficient allocation of resources, and this is what our systems of economics are incentivising, then we need new economics.

    Cosmo localism, or ‘design global, manufacture local’, certainly has some overlap with ‘glocalisation’, or the adaptation of globally marketed products to local culture, in that a shared global design can be replicated (or adapted then produced) locally. But by whom, and how?

    Glocalisation is about the top-down marketing of consumer products designed remotely, in a centralised way and then tweaked for local culture. Cosmolocalism, or Design Global Manufacture Local (DG-ML) is based on a different production logic, as explained by Jose Ramos and Chris Giotitsas in ‘A New Model of Production for a New Economy’:

    Traditionally corporate enterprises have solely owned the intellectual property (IP) they employ in the production of goods. They source the materials for the goods through national or global supply chains. They manufacture those goods using economies of scale in a set number of manufacturing centres, whereupon those finished goods are delivered nationally or globally.

    DG-ML is an inversion of this production logic. First of all, the IP is open, whether open source or creative commons or copy fair, so it can be used by anyone. Secondly, manufacturing and production can be done independently of the IP, by any community or enterprise around the world that wants to.
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  5. In a report last week, the cryptocurrency website Digiconomics said that worldwide bitcoin mining was using more electricity than Serbia. The country. Writing for Grist, Eric Holthaus calculated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin peer-to-peer network—remember BitTorrent? Like that—would require more electricity than all of the United States. And by November of 2020, it’d use more electricity than the entire world does today.

    That’s bad. It means Bitcoin emits the equivalent of 17.7 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, a big middle finger to Earth’s climate and anyone who enjoys things like coastlines, forests, and not dying of mosquito-borne diseases. Refracted through a different metaphor, the Bitcoin P2P network is essentially a distributed superintelligence utterly dedicated to generating bitcoins, so of course it wants to convert all the energy (and therefore matter) in the universe into bitcoin. That is literally its job. And if it has to recruit greedy nerds by paying them phantom value, well, OK. Unleash the hypnocurrency!

    The idea of bitcoin still has the whiff of genius—a digital currency as untraceable and trustworthy as cash, unfettered from nationality and physicality, with egalitarianism and access built into its philosophical and technical firmware. But the reality, exposed by bitcoin’s remarkable run-up in value over the last three months, is that the science may not hold together. Which isn’t to say people aren’t trying to fix it.

    The thing that makes Bitcoin bitcoiny is the blockchain, the secure ledger of all payments and trades. The point of the P2P bitcoin network is the generation and maintenance of that ledger, and technically anyone can contribute updates—those recordings of transactions are blocks in the chain. But there’s a catch. (This was the bit of genius in bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto’s pitch, whoever the almost certainly psuedonymous “Satoshi Nakamoto” is or are.) In order to contribute a block, you also have to solve some really hard math, a “hashing algorithm” called SHA-256.1

    Validate a bunch of transactions and do the math, and the system might choose your block to add to the chain; if it does, you win some bitcoin. That’s called mining, and the idea of imposing a cost to enter—that hashing math—is “proof of work.”
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
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  6. Average land use area needed to produce one unit of protein by food type, measured in metres squared (m²) per gram of protein over a crop's annual cycle or theaverage animal's lifetime. Average values are based on a meta-analysis of studies across 742 agricultural systems and over 90 unique foods.
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  7. some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it. Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip. The experiment found that squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device.

    Juicero declined to comment. A person close to the company said Juicero is aware the packs can be squeezed by hand but that most people would prefer to use the machine because the process is more consistent and less messy. The device also reads a QR code printed on the back of each produce pack and checks the source against an online database to ensure the contents haven’t expired or been recalled, the person said. The expiration date is also printed on the pack.
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  8. the whole Juicero phenomenon is really symptomatic of how misguided and removed nutrition is becoming, and it’s all based on the presumption that eating well and eating right somehow takes a lot of time and effort. The Soylent hype is based on this. But this approach simply removes people further and further away from the reality of the food they eat. It comes in a closed, pristine package, the contents of which aren’t even visible. It erases the fact that food grows in the soil and feeds on the soil, it’s part of our ecosystem and part of our culture. I think this concept of food as an abstraction, not tied to the reality of the earth or the labour that goes into it, is what promotes conspicuous consumption and a disregard for our common environment. For me, it’s actually the opposite of mindful nutrition.
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  9. Dressing to impress has an environmental cost as well as a financial one. From the pesticides poured on cotton fields to the washes in which denim is dunked, making 1kg of fabric generates 23kg of greenhouse gases on average, according to estimates by McKinsey, a consultancy. Because consumers keep almost every type of apparel only half as long as they did 15 years ago, these inputs go to waste faster than ever before. The latest worry is shoppers in the developing world, who have yet to buy as many clothes as rich-world consumers but are quickly catching up.
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    Most apparel companies know that sooner or later, consumers’ awareness of this subject will rise. That is a worry. Various furores in the 1990s and afterwards over the working conditions of people making goods for firms such as Nike, Walmart and Primark badly damaged brands. The clothing industry cannot afford to appear so ugly again.

    One obvious way in which firms can answer environmental concerns is to use renewable energy to power their facilities. Beyond that, they can cut back sharply on water and chemical use; and they can develop new materials and manufacturing processes that reduce inputs.
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  10. The main difference between the Old Left and the Alt-Left is that the latter focuses more on the cultural, behavioral and psychological sides of economic life. In a world where material resources are relatively abundant and information and information processing become dominant in economic life, money begins to matter less than e.g. cultural capital, good social relations and access to high quality information. What is lacking is not stuff, or money, but intelligent solutions for distribution, value creation and ideas about what to do with our lives in the first place. To create a fair and sustainable global order we must create better social settings for people to do worthwhile things.

    We have already stated that this entails a “betrayal of the working class” (read previous post in this series). What do we mean by that? Basically it means that the Alt-Left loosens its ties to the worker movements and the interests of labor (higher wages, safer employment, benefits, consumption and so on). Simply put, the greatest problem of the world is no longer that working and middle class people make too little money. Many of the problems that come from poverty and economic precariousness are – upon closer inspection – in fact social and psychological problems. In the most developed countries people aren’t literally starving or freezing to death. But they are being stressed out, alienated, frustrated, treated poorly, manipulated by advertisement and getting stuck in destructive social relationships. Increasing people’s incomes and consumption can be a way of remedying these maladies, but it is far from the only way. And a too strong focus on material wealth does not only blind us to other means of improving people’s lives; it also perpetuates an overall system of production and consumption that is not ecologically sustainable.
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