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Thread: The Biggest Challenge To Environmental Awareness

  1. #1 The Biggest Challenge To Environmental Awareness 
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    If you ask the “experts” what is the biggest challenge facing the environmental protection movement as a whole these days is and you will get a thousand different answers. But there really is one challenge far greater than all the others combined – public awareness.

    The sad fact is that too many people simply don’t care. Many rationalize this disinterest in the world around them as OK because they are too busy, or that their lone actions cannot make a difference (the same rationale they use for not exercising their right to vote either) They don’t seem to realize that they are a part of the environment themselves and that everything that goes on in the world around them does have (or will have) a direct impact on their own lives in the end.
    http://blog.tiptheplanet.com/2010/12...tal-awareness/


    Share your knowledge and add/edit environmental articles: make it easier to be green, after all we need convenient actions, not inconvenient truths
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    This is magnified by the fact that many environmentalists disgrace their own cause by pushing non issues, so that people do not take the real issues too seriously. The old 'cry wolf' syndrome.


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    I found that the disinterest in environmental causes are mainly due to the fact that people don't feel 'home' where they live.
    For me, pollution is basically what you won't accept in your own house, either it is CO2, noise, light or whatever.
    In most developped countries, there is a slight awareness because of the media, the social pressure and the laws.
    But developped countries are not the bulk of humanity, far from there. Presently, the emerging countries and third world countries are generating more and more pollution.
    These countries have something in common, a very large population totally unaware of environmental damages they are creating. Why ? Because they are not educated on it and also because they are often living in towns far from their villages. Finally, governements have other more immediate priorities.

    I can take the example of the disaster in giant african towns like Kinshassa, Lagos or Nairobi. Plastic bags for example are clogging the sewage / gutters systems. Dirty waters are going untreated in the river or the sea.
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    3rd world people mostly don't care because it's the least of their problems--first comes feeding your family. For their part they do what can to solve local problems, like burning or burying trash in their back yard etc.

    On a larger scale, lets not forget a good amount of the pollution the developing world produces is making unsustainable crap for Westerners who consume far more goods and in a way pollute more by proxy than a 3rd world person.
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    I agree with the argument that, at the individual level, people in developing countries can't care about environmental problems before they have satisfied their hunger. And once they get a little richer, they will spend the extra amount on a protein-richer diet instead of pollution abatement. That is only understandable...

    The question is: What can Governments of developed countries do to redistribute some of their citizens' wealth to those developing countries in order to make them stop polluting as much as they normally would? Which frameworks are already in place and what are the circumstances under which such mechanisms truely work? Any thoughts?
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    I agree with the argument that, at the individual level, people in developing countries can't care about environmental problems before they have satisfied their hunger. And once they get a little richer, they will spend the extra amount on a protein-richer diet instead of pollution abatement. That is only understandable...

    The question is: What can Governments of developed countries do to redistribute some of their citizens' wealth to those developing countries in order to make them stop polluting as much as they normally would?
    Do you mean "as they would," or as much as the developing countries do. You see, and I'll point it out again, the developed countries pollute FAR more than developed nations per individual.

    But I'll put out a few things that can happen.
    Help developing nations get their birth rates under control--the more effective method seems to be getting women educated about sex ed, birth control and making it available to them.

    Helping them skip the coal/oil generation of energy production. Hydro projects and developing ways nuclear plant projects with means to provide fuel and monitor spend fuel rods etc.
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    To erwin

    You asked the wrong question. You asked how to get the wealth of developed nations to the poor. This has been tried, and failed numerous times.

    The real question is how to get undeveloped nations to develop their own resources, and their own people, into a wealthier state. This has been done, many times.

    For example : Singapore at the end of WWII, when the Japanese invaders left, was an economic mess with the population in dire straits. They have since, by their own bootstraps, lifted their game till now the average Singaporese earns more than the average Briton.

    The answer, of course, is good government. You can pour all the money you like into an impoverished nation with corrupt government, and merely make the villains richer, while the people starve. If government is good, and not corrupt, the nation will grow, and eventually thrive.

    Note that good government does not necessarily mean democracy or human rights. Just one that is not corrupt, and which has the wisdom to direct economic activity. Singapore grew economically under an effective dictatorship, but one that was dedicated to growth.

    Hong Kong did the same under enlightened British governorship from the end of WWII, until the Chinese took it back. Today Ghana is showing the way for African nations with 6% per annum economic growth.

    Lynx

    Developed nations do not pollute more than developing. That is one of the popular myths that refuses to go away. Nations pollute the most during the development stage. Today, the most polluting nations are in Asia, with China leading the way.

    The United States and Western Europe produced maximum pollution 100 years ago, and the level of pollution has been dropping ever since. When a nation develops and becomes wealthier, it has more resources, and more knowledge to put into mitigating harm to the environment.

    Where are the London smogs today? They are gone, because Britons dedicate money and knowhow to reducing air pollution. Salmon swim in the River Thames, because of the efforts to stop water pollution. Acid rain in Western Europe is gone, though, recently, there is a return because of the output of the factories of the undeveloped Eastern Europe nations.

    The poorest nations produce little pollution. The richest produce little pollution. It is the nations half way between that are most polluting, and that is temporary until they can achieve wealth and learn to control it.
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    Developed nations do not pollute more than developing.
    Read what I wrote again.
    I said "per individual." There are a lot more Chinese than Americans. Per individual we produce many times more pollute than the Chinese, and thats even without consideration that most of the pollution China produces is making lots of unnecessary crap for US. markets.

    Other fact checking. Salmon introduction has failed in the Thames--last year only three returned. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?p...d=aR4vM06CXnPg

    Would you like to guess what % of goods used by the English is made in England? Like us, most goods are produced and the resulting pollution produced off the Islands.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    On a larger scale, lets not forget a good amount of the pollution the developing world produces is making unsustainable crap for Westerners who consume far more goods and in a way pollute more by proxy than a 3rd world person.
    And when the western economies are in the toilet we, just like impoverished populations in developing countries, focus on our own short-term needs - to pay the mortgage, and put food on the table. Thinking about climate change is not high on the agenda. At least we might buy less unsustainable crap.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Other fact checking. Salmon introduction has failed in the Thames--last year only three returned. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?p...d=aR4vM06CXnPg
    That's disheartening, but at least there are plans in the works to clean up the Thames. This report is a sad fulfillment of a prophecy I heard earlier this year when we took a boat trip from Westminster Pier to Kew. The highly opinionated skipper mentioned the salmon reintroduction and said "don't bother buying a fishing permit, cos they won't come back if they've got any sense".
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    It is still a fact that air and water in the USA and western Europe was way more polluted 100 years ago than today, and that levels of pollution continue to fall.

    In developing countries, the opposite happens, and levels of pollution rise until a certain point is reached. When a developing nation becomes developed, pollution begins to fall. After all, who wants to sh!t in their own nest, when they have the resources to keep things clean.

    The concept that being wealthy means being polluting is just a myth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    It is still a fact that air and water in the USA and western Europe was way more polluted 100 years ago than today, and that levels of pollution continue to fall.
    It also depends what you are measuring; The US produces 8 times the Co2 as it did in 1910; waste water and agricultural phosphorous and nitrogen are also much higher and as one consequence have almost entirely kills Chesapeake bay compared to 100 years ago etc. One hundred years ago we made most of our own stuff. Much of what you perceived as cleaning up due to better efficiency and regulation is due to shifting of manufacturing goods to other places.

    In developing countries, the opposite happens, and levels of pollution rise until a certain point is reached. When a developing nation becomes developed, pollution begins to fall.
    Same point, they shift their manufacturing to other places.

    I applaud progress to control point sources of pollution in Europe and in the US, but we're going to have to go much further. Modern production of energy is environmentally disastrous in developing nations and largely paid for by the people in quality of life, destruction of crops etc rather than the industry. We have a vested interest in transforming our own and developing world economies to higher efficiency and creating the incentives and disincentives to those that pollute pay up front cost to do so.
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    Lynx, where you say : Same point, they shift their manufacturing to other places., you are doing the west an injustice. Certainly, there is some movement of manufacturing to other countries, but that is a small part of what is happening.

    For example : pollution is less than 100 years ago. Yet, even taking into account the manufacturing moved offshore, there is a hell of a lot more manufacturing in the USA and Western Europe than 100 years ago. The difference is in how we do it, and how we take care of waste. That is now far more sophisticated.

    It takes time, of course. Nothing happens overnight. To change from a heavily polluting nation to one that is dealing with waste is something that has taken, and will continue to take 50 to 100 years. This is, of course, the reason why CO2 is still a big problem.

    CO2 was not considered a problem pollutant 30 years ago. The world is just now starting to tackle it as a problem. I predict it will take another 50 years before we have largely 'cleaned up our act'. Fortunately, developing nations will not be too far behind developed nations in doing this, and 100 years from now, we will have much lower carbon emissions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    CO2 was not considered a problem pollutant 30 years ago. .
    "Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels."
    President Johnson 45 years ago.

    And more than 4 decades disinformation that only now is being overcome to the degree that people are nudging the government to force change.

    I already said I applaud our efforts to clean up point pollution. We are doing things much cleaner in that regard. But it took far too long to get to the point we are now and enormous and serious problems still exist. Developing nations, which are far more populated won't have decades to make the changes like we did without incredible destruction to themselves and to rest of the globe. And like the Co2 issue, those clean up efforts are often eclipsed by international cooperations with no vested long term interest in protecting where they operate. Somehow we've got to change the whole process.
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    To Lynx and Sceptic: Lynx, let me reiterate your initial message:

    "On a larger scale, lets not forget a good amount of the pollution the developing world produces is making unsustainable crap for Westerners who consume far more goods and in a way pollute more by proxy than a 3rd world person."

    (by the way, can someone please tell me how to get these quotes into these nice rectangle boxes, as you do it above?)

    You can correct me, Lynx, but I think what you meant by this is NOT that developed nations (even on a 'per individual' basis) pollute more than developing ones DIRECTLY through their own production or other processes that occur in their local economies. Rather what I think you meant (and this goes to 'skeptic') was an indirect effect, i.e. developed countries pollute more by demanding and consuming more stuff that is indeed carbon-intensive in production. The critical point is that much of the carbon-intensive stuff we consume in developed countries is being produced in and imported from developing countries (such as China). So it is in this indirect sense that developed countries "pollute more" than developing countries. And it is in this sense that "being wealthy means being polluting" is NOT a myth.

    How about direct pollution then? Is skeptic right in saying that (on a per individual basis) developed nations pollute less than developing ones? I'm sure it is true that developed economies are more carbon-efficient in their production, but they also produce more (as measured in GDP), perhaps except China. Are there any stats on this? Would be interesting to know.

    Lynx, could I ask you to clarify this for me?

    "And like the Co2 issue, those clean up efforts are often eclipsed by international cooperations with no vested long term interest in protecting where they operate."

    To Skeptic: Thanks for your explanations on my point from below. I agree, good government is a key factor. On your argument that it should be up to the poorer countries themselves to pull them out of their predicament by their own bootstraps...I'm not too convinced. I guess you don't mean 'resources' in a narrow sense, but all physical, financial and human capital. Well, my question(s) would be: Do they have so much of it to start off with? If they do, what is the underlying cause they can't develop it as you say? A lot is to do with how the Governments in these countries operate, yes! How do you solve this? What has to happen internally, and what externally?
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    How about direct pollution then? Is skeptic right in saying that (on a per individual basis) developed nations pollute less than developing ones? I'm sure it is true that developed economies are more carbon-efficient in their production, but they also produce more (as measured in GDP), perhaps except China. Are there any stats on this? Would be interesting to know.

    Lynx, could I ask you to clarify this for me?
    Part of the confusion is we're being too general. I'll use some examples:

    Per-person Americans put far more Co2 into the atmosphere, phosphorus and nitrogen into the water system and nuclear waste than an average Chinese.

    If however you look at problem point pollutants of the past, like sulfur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrogen oxides. Mercury, sulfur aerosols, raw sewage into the water etc you'd probably find China and more developing nations put out more than US or Europe.

    Other issues are difficult to compare. For example we produce far more municipal waste but do a better job at consolidating and disposing it in lower impact places.

    Developed nations Ecological footprint is also much higher per person than in developing nations. A combination of inefficient protein sources and that we tend to buy lower quality stuff and throw away rather than repair (less true in Northern Europe than in the US). This is something that absolutely change because there quite literately not enough natural resources to support even a fraction of the world's population at the rate of modern Western impact. Imagine if everyone tried to eat as much beef as Americans for example.
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    The main reason wealthier nations pollute less is that they put more resources into controlling pollution. A wealthy nation does this to cut down on 'nasties' in their own air and water. Who wants to breath poisons and drink pathogens?

    Thus, we get industrial chimneys in the west with electrostatic recipitators and scrubbers to remove the worst pollutants. Waste water goes through a wide range of treatment systems. In developing nations, dirty air and water is often discharged totally untreated, and is loaded with poisons.

    To erwin

    I do not mean that we necessarily leave developing nations to sink or swim by themselves. But any aid given must be applied intelligently, with consideration given to the realities that recent history have taught. For example : cash gifts through governments, where the government is corrupt, are worse than useless.

    Assistance with development must take into account that the nation must move towards honest government, or all the money and effort is wasted. I would rather remove all aid from Zimbabwe, for example, where government is so corrupt that the word 'evil' might be given. Instead, give aid to Ghana or Malawi, where government is (for Africa) relatively honest. The end result will be much, much more 'bang' for your buck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Developed nations Ecological footprint is also much higher per person than in developing nations. A combination of inefficient protein sources and that we tend to buy lower quality stuff and throw away rather than repair (less true in Northern Europe than in the US). This is something that absolutely change because there quite literately not enough natural resources to support even a fraction of the world's population at the rate of modern Western impact. Imagine if everyone tried to eat as much beef as Americans for example.
    This ties in nicely with the opening question/statement of this thread. The majority of people are either not aware, don't care to become aware ("ignorance is a blessing") or, even if they are aware, still don't care. These are the reasons why people buy so much low quality crap which is not only carbon-intensive in production but also carbon-intensive in consumption. And while it is probably true that this is even more the case in developed countries, I would argue that the underlying issue (a lack of awareness or care) is more pronounced in developing countries. The only reason why their footprint is lower is that they consume less, not out of environmental altruism but because they are simply not rich enough. However, this might change quite soon as in the case of China...

    As such, I find raising public awareness through appropriate environmental education is even more imperative in developing countries than in developed countries, even though at the current point in time developed countries have a larger footprint.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    3rd world people mostly don't care because it's the least of their problems--first comes feeding your family. For their part they do what can to solve local problems, like burning or burying trash in their back yard etc.
    Then they turn around and have huge families, the idiots.

    On a larger scale, lets not forget a good amount of the pollution the developing world produces is making unsustainable crap for Westerners who consume far more goods and in a way pollute more by proxy than a 3rd world person.
    And the worst part is we're also screwing over our own economy by doing that. Lying "experts" talk about how the cheap consumer goods make the poor feel wealthy, but .... consumer goods do nothing to lessen your basic expenses like food, and shelter, which are the costs that determine how much breathing room a poor person has. Lowering the price of shoes won't make them able to afford good medical coverage. (Unless they're so stupid that they'd rather have nice shoes.)

    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    The question is: What can Governments of developed countries do to redistribute some of their citizens' wealth to those developing countries in order to make them stop polluting as much as they normally would? Which frameworks are already in place and what are the circumstances under which such mechanisms truely work? Any thoughts?
    You'd have to do away with the "Right of Self Determination" entirely. As long as local warlords' decisions are considered to be "Self Determination", none of the money we give to a third world country will ever end up in the right place.

    If we send them condoms, or birth control pills, or whatever have you, warlords will attempt to seize the shipments and sell it on the open market. If you try to build infrastructure, the warlords will demand endless bribes.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary
    I think we should make a change of ourselves to disseminate awareness to others especially third world country regarding this environmental issues. In hand we can fight and help mother earth on our own little way.
    I don't they need "awareness" as much as they need a path and resources that skips the fossil fuel based and wasteful modernity that's been adopted by the Western world. A single Westerner typically waste more, consumes far more, and pollutes more by the crap they buy than an entire 3rd world family.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm against everything modern--not at all. But the modern nations are still muddling along and for the most part not acting like there's a future crisis. And I don't mean a few stimulus dollars here and their, I'm talking about panic-based wholesale investments into building things we know that do work (e.g. nuke power), massive research into figuring out what's next akin to what the goes into medical research (e.g. >10% instead of <1% of profits), and a whole host of government driven and led ways to get people to stop building wasteful buildings, buying wasteful cars, eating wasteful, foods etc.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary
    I think we should make a change of ourselves to disseminate awareness to others especially third world country regarding this environmental issues. In hand we can fight and help mother earth on our own little way.
    I don't they need "awareness" as much as they need a path and resources that skips the fossil fuel based and wasteful modernity that's been adopted by the Western world. A single Westerner typically waste more, consumes far more, and pollutes more by the crap they buy than an entire 3rd world family.
    Sounds like we're the ones who need awareness. I bet that just annoys the hell out of third worlders, hearing from us about how much they pollute.

    Frivolous entertainment is necessary to the survival of a highly automated society. When you only need a small fraction of your potential labor force to meet the basic material needs of your society, then manufacturing fun stuff is the only way to keep the rest of them occupied.

    However, I do think we could put more severe environmental restrictions on that section of the economy and it wouldn't really hurt things much, because fun wealth isn't real wealth. Real wealth is being able to afford good health insurance. Real wealth is being able to pay the rent without going into debt. Lowering the cost of entertainment by cutting corners does nothing to help with those things.
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