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09/22/2020

Comments

carrie morrison

I found Quiggin's article very interesting and optimistic. He repeatedly mentioned that the world is on the correct path (although slow) to reduce carbon emissions, increase sustainability, and reach the UN's development goals. However, he mentions that if every country were to function as Americans and Europeans do, then there would be high impacts to climate change. Moreover, he mentioned the only aspect holding these countries back is assumptions about how energy systems must work. Thus reminded me of how in class we discussed that switching to solar or wind power would actually be more beneficial but due to the impacts to the oil sector the switch hasn't been made. Then, he goes on to demonstrate how poor countries in Africa and South Asia are actually more technologically advanced when it comes to sustainability than the developed countries. The technology is ready to be developed but due to a lack of focus on sustainability the developed countries have been held back from advancing to solar or wind powered technology. This makes me wonder if we will every make the shift to zero-carbon emissions. Quiggin emphasizes in his article that we are already on the path to reducing these emissions, which is reassuring that eventually we may be more sustainable.

The ending of Quiggin's article I found the most interesting. He mentions that a shift in beliefs, values, and social institutions are what is truly necessary to achieving a good life and sustainability. Also, that shifting these beliefs will actually improve people's quality of life. The technology for being sustainable is already present and the shift to valuing sustainability is needed. However, due to the current state of the world it makes me wonder what Quiggins would say now. Are we still on the path to becoming more sustainable? or have we chosen to stay on the "treadmill", "chasing bigger and better consumption goods" until we reach the limits of what the planet can support.

Danny Lynch

I thought there were several interesting insights in Quiggin’s article. First, looking at Friedman’s idea of the labor leisure trade-off through the lens of sustainable development was really interesting. Since our society treats leisure as consumption (Quiggin’s example of shopping during free time), increasing leisure as a means to reduce carbon emission (such as from driving) doesn’t sound like a reasonable idea to me. His arguments as to the feasibility of increased usage of mass transit as well as a transition to electric cars does make a lot of sense though, especially with the recent success that electric cars have seen over the past decade. If the prices of batteries in electric cars continue to fall, I could see a large scale transition to electric cars in the next decade or so. Another point I wanted to reflect on was his explanation as to what a transition to zero-carbon would look like in terms of changes in national income. I’m critical as to the idea that the obstacle to becoming zero-carbon is only a “marginal slowdown in in the rate at which standards of living improve.” This may be true, but it is an extreme simplification that overlooks how difficult it will be to enact this change. It will be difficult to convince politicians to pursue policy that, from a surface level or short term perspective, only slows economic growth. Of course, I think the mathematical representation is a useful resource to understand just how easy it would be to theoretically transition to zero-carbon, but it would definitely be much more challenging in practice. Lastly, his insight into how developing countries can ‘leapfrog’ technological development (such as transitioning directly to mobile phone usage and skipping over landline), made me think about the idea of convergence and divergence in economic growth. Examples of technological leapfrogging are in line with the theory of convergence. Empirically, however, the growth rates of many poorer countries are diverging, and the international income gap is widening despite the ability of such profound ‘leapfrogging.’ This could be due to the lack of effective economic and political institutions in developing countries that are capable of implementing the infrastructure to support this technology.

Matthew Todd

I'm writing about the Ed Bank piece because I found it particularly interesting. I find the trade-off between prosperity and conservation to be a very interesting question that has a very complex answer. This article proposes societal shifts, such as a promotion of leisure in lieu of consumption resulting in less travel, and less meat production. There are many ways to mitigate these effects, such as the eventual more effecient in vitro meats, carbon neutral vehicles as California recently committed too, and much more. I'm interested in exploring how, when people are better off, they treat the environment better, such as as the Indonesia example I referenced in class the other days. It might be that the solution is to fight the poverty, and reap the environmental benefits that come hand in hand. I was also interested in the stat the article referenced about the average American's perception of global aid versus what we actually provide. It's interesting to think of what "doing our part", could and should look like. We have the power to help make a significant change in both the lives of the people currently struggling and future generations around the world. This can be done both by governments like the United States stepping more up to the plate, and more private citizens reaching into their pockets to help enact positive change.

Eric Schleicher

Man, it can be tough to read articles and projections such as these related to global climate change. In one sense, knowing what we know and reading articles like the Quiggin one, our future can seem optimistic. We have the technology and the creative population necessary to enact positive change that protects our environment while simultaneously meeting the energy and production needs of future populations. I think it is important to demonstrate the predicted consequences of inaction, though it can be intimidating to an individual human being. Projections such as the World Bank one can be slightly more imposing, clearly identifying what is accepted within the scientific community about likely environmental impacts and damages that will ensue directly as a result of global climate change and affect billions of people throughout the world. With the diversity of impacts and the complexity of the global interconnected system that will be responsible for addressing climate change on significant levels, it seems at times like international governments are the only institutions capable of allocating the necessary funds and resources to produce the necessary change and motivation that is needed. That can be scary at times like these when our American government blindly ignores the widely-accepted consensus, the truth, at a time when we are at the pinnacle of this global challenge. I feel empowered knowing I can conduct my own life to be better aligned with my knowledge and beliefs about the world, environment and consumption, and I am always an optimist. The people and our consumption habits can dictate our collective energy use and production within this nation and of course influence the government that represents us. But I am concerned by the time frame that has been presented to us, knowing that if we do not enact change in the present, these issues may be unavoidable. That's totally freaky to a young person like myself who has just come of age enough to really understand more of the true workings within society. I think all we can do is be grateful for each and every day and do all that we can as people, with our consumption habits and political efficacy, to enact change. I feel for all the people around the world who are likely to be far more greatly affected by these environmental changes than I will be. I believe we can figure this thing out, but we have to act as well as hope. Whoo.

Jay Walton

I found the case study within Quiggin’s article to be incredibly intriguing, how the poorer countries within Africa and South Asia have progressed past traditional developed countries through their implementation of cell phones and photovoltaic cells. This countries are not to be looked down upon, as nations in need of us to "advance them", but rather held up as pinnacles of development. Notwithstanding, their implementation is on a much smaller scale but the principles of their develop should be emulated...not changed! As Quiggin said "The future is one where technology adapts flexibly to human needs, rather than requiring ‘flexibility’ from humans to fit the demands of the economic machine." As we are living through the COVID-19 pandemic, I can't help but wonder about the demand being placed on our electrical system. Now, more than ever, people are spending exponential amounts of time at home using their computers, tablets and phones. While the office buildings once occupied by these individuals, I wonder about the efficiency differences between the two: given the average age of a home compared to a modern office building, especially with the implementation of "LEAD" certification: is more of a demand being placed on an electrical grind. Consequently, would in the midst of a pandemic, would the American population be more receptive to reducing their electrical bills through the installation of solar panels? It makes me wonder, and I intend to do more research into the effect the pandemic has had on American energy consumption.

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