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Restored: "Ch. 2 - Twilight at Easter." 
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Post Restored: "Ch. 2 - Twilight at Easter."
This thread is for discussing Ch. 2 - Twilight at Easter.

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Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:01 pm
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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 2 - Twilight at Easter."
(4/13/05 2:09 pm) misterpessimistic said...



Reading this chapter made me think of the Easter islanders as a vain, wasteful society. This is what I mean when I say that humans are prone to gluttonous behavior at the expense of the environment and to the detriment of our own existence.

The race to build bigger statues makes me think about the American trend of bigger houses and bigger SUV's. It is all about pride and
oneupmanship. It is wasteful. SUV's drink more gas, produce more pollution and cause more wear on the roads than smaller, more efficient cars. Even if Peak Oil is not an immediate concern, should we not at least heed the potential disaster and move toward conservation as opposed to throwing caution to the wind?

And who needs an SUV in a city? Why? We see all the commercials with these vehicles climbing mountains and backroading, but how many city dwellers will ever do this? At least enough to HAVE to own one.

Questions: What is the maximum population this planet can sustain? Will we be able to support exponential population growth indefinitely?

Just throwing some thoughts out.

Mr. P.



(4/14/05 12:42 am) MadArchitect said...

And who needs an SUV in a city? Why? We see all the commercials with these vehicles climbing mountains and backroading, but how many city dwellers will ever do this?

Most SUVs, so far as I know, are not particularly well-designed for actual "sports utility" use. They're bought, I believe, as part of a general tendency towards defensive driving behavior. They're perceived to be more protective than other vehicles, more luxurious to some extent (because bigger, roomier), more useful (because they can carry more cargo than a compact) but not as stodgy as the mini-van or station wagon of yesteryear.

Questions: What is the maximum population this planet can sustain?

That would depend, I suppose, on the average seasonal consumption of each individual unit of the population. It seems intuitive to me that we could bring the average consumption down and find our current level of population far less worrisome than we do at the moment.



(4/14/05 8:50 am) misterpessimistic said...

Quote:
Most SUVs, so far as I know, are not particularly well-designed for actual "sports utility" use.


This I know, and they are NOT good for bad weather and can roll very easily. I think it is a case of marketing and the powerful feeling of being BIG on the road. SUV's also promote OFFENSIVE driving, from what I see on the road. Bottom line is they are more inefficient, fuel economy wise, and use more gas than other vehicles and really are NOT necessary.

Now I am not against SUV's in general. I am against the excessive models...the Hummers and Denalis...those HUGE monsters.


Quote:
It seems intuitive to me that we could bring the average consumption down and find our current level of population far less worrisome than we do at the moment.


Yes but, especially in this country, do you see consumption going down? Are Americans too spoiled to reduce now? Will it take a catastrophic event to bring about prudence?

I know a few of us see the need for and can actually live a life of moderation, but is that enough to make the change?

I read the excerpt from "Catastrophe" by Posner in Skeptic. He mentions that in 2050, the population will increase 50%. That is huge! Now I know with reduced consumption, we may manage for a while, but there has to be a point, with exponential growth, where it is too much for the planet to sustain.

Just having room to build new houses will not do, because the land still has to produce food...unless we find a way to nourish through pills or some Star Trekkian food synthesizer. I dont know...perhaps my moniker is rearing it's ugly head, but I am not too confident my kids are going to be living in a great time period. I think much is going to get worse before anything gets better.

Mr. P.



(4/14/05 10:30 am) MadArchitect said...

Will it take a catastrophic event to bring about prudence?

Probably, but I think a socially catastrophic event is just as likely to have the needed effect as an environmentally catastrophic event -- although, we sort of are an environmentally catastrophic event

I know a few of us see the need for and can actually live a life of moderation, but is that enough to make the change?

On an individual level I think it's possible to live moderately, but I think any attempt to implement conservative resource use will likely be too contrary to our socio-economic context to take hold.

I read the excerpt from "Catastrophe" by Posner in Skeptic. He mentions that in 2050, the population will increase 50%. That is huge! Now I know with reduced consumption, we may manage for a while, but there has to be a point, with exponential growth, where it is too much for the planet to sustain.

A more immediate effect will likely be overcrowding in urban areas, which tends to bring the level of hygiene down, which in turn tends to trigger, spawn or promote infectious disease. So far, we've been fairly effective at treating and containing outbreaks like SARS and ebola, but diseases like that act as a sort of stopgab measure for population growth. IF we continue to add pressure, it seems likely that eventually one outbreak or another is likely to overwhelm us.

But that may not be on the immediate horizon. There are other factors which inhibit population growth -- social change, war, etc. -- which may gve lie to Diamond's prediction.



(4/14/05 1:09 pm) Loricat said...

Quote:
although, we sort of are an environmentally catastrophic event

Mad, that's funny in a really awful way! :\

I believe that we must make changes. I don't know the numbers, but people in Canada and the USA consume FAR more than our fair share of the world's resources.
Quote:
So far, we've been fairly effective at treating and containing outbreaks like SARS and ebola, but diseases like that act as a sort of stopgab measure for population growth. IF we continue to add pressure, it seems likely that eventually one outbreak or another is likely to overwhelm us.

There's a voice at my mental committee table that wants one of these diseases to do what it's meant to do. A dispassionate part of me 'knows' that it's necessary. But the rest of me wants better solutions...and I've been finding them, in the festival I was working on based on The Better World Handbook, and my current project, working for the Green Party. I have to do my little part to make it all a better place to live. [Maybe this is part of the discussion for the final chapter of Collapse?]

Lori



(4/25/05 10:55 pm) ginof said...

I'm writing this without having read any of the other posts. My notes at the end of the chapter are exactly as follows:

OK, right now I'm feeling that this book is not a good book club book because I can't see where there is room for 'discussion'. His conclusions seems self evident and I'm anticipating many more long chapters of the same. I do find the chapter to be interesting and well written/edited. It's just that its doesn't seem conducive to discussion.

Hopefully I'm wrong! :(












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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 2 - Twilight at Easter."
(4/26/05 3:43 pm) Loricat said...

The good thing is that discussion does not have to be limited to tearing apart an author's ideas or methodology -- instead, as Diamond's writing style is so readable, his arguments so clearly laid out, what we can do is expand upon them. We've already been doing that, by making associations to our own realities and discussing options and solutions.

Lori



(4/27/05 1:00 am) ginof said...

i have to comment on the SUV part of this thread: I live in the city (san Francisco). I have a neighbor who owns a Ford Excessive (the big one) The vehicle won't fit in their garage. Because driveways are so close together, they usually can't park it in the street unless they block their own driveway (i have no problem with them blocking their own driveway) But when this is not possible, the park it IN the driveway.

The problem with this is that the Excessive is so damn big that they block the sidewalk, the parking lane and the damn thing sticks out into the street! What a freekin' hazard! I can't imagine the thing has a steering wheel. Tank track controls are in order. I hope the looser pays $120 each week to fill the gas tank.




(4/27/05 1:03 am) ginof said...

Hey Loricat,

Good point! Glad you brougt it up!

Thanks!



(4/30/05 3:10 pm) tarav said...

Lori & Gino--We can also point out amusing things like the quote on p. 109. "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth." I laughed out loud while reading that. The quote is one passed through oral tradition by the islanders as something said to taunt one's ememies. I guess the phrase, "your mama" goes waaaaay back! LOL



(5/3/05 10:30 am) Loricat said...

Tara -- you're right, that's quite funny, in a dark way. Supposedly, in New Zealand, one of the worst insults is to pick your teeth at someone...again, a cannibalism leftover.

This chapter (which I finally had time to finish -- gads, I'm slow! or busy...) reminds me of "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss:

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!


What on earth were the Easter Islanders thinking? What are we thinking? Watching Bush's smug face as he talks about finding ways to lower the price of gas...going into the fragile Alaskan ecosystem to drill for oil...the British Columbia gov't looking into offshore drilling like that's not going to have any effect...our continuing dependence on plastic, cars, oil products in our daily lives. When are we going to get that catastrophe that will finally show us it is time to kick our oil habit?

I'm as bad as the rest -- one of my weekend pleasures is a road trip. "But why should I be the only one being righteous and staying home? Let's go for a drive!"

Enough of the rant...

I really enjoy how Diamond pulls no punches -- at the end of the chapter, where he criticizes the critics of the "the Islanders did this to themselves" theory:
Quote:
In part because of this history of exploitation and oppression, there has been resistance among both islanders and scholars to acknowledging the reality of self-inflicted environmental damage..." (p.113)
He is fearless in the face of political correctness -- he said pretty much the same thing about the very new concept of the First Nations people of North America being "stewards of the land" (was it in Collapse, or Guns, Germs and Steel? I'm reading them concurrently...). He states his unpopular opinions, backs them up, addresses his potential critics -- it's beautiful to read.

Lori



(5/3/05 11:42 am) wwdimmitt said...

Lori:

Quote:
He states his unpopular opinions, backs them up, addresses his potential critics -- it's beautiful to read


I don't even know if Jared Diamond is very aware when his opinions/conclusions are unpopular. He focuses so intently on the logic of causation that popularity does not even enter into his calculus, IMO.

I am very impressed with his dedication to logic, and his ability to sort out ultimate causes for complex behavior patterns.

He is somewhat unique in this ability as a scholarly writer, in my experience.

And, you should consider that I am basing my opinion only on GGS, as I have not yet read Collapse.

This would be an interesting subject to discuss with Diamond and get his personal response.

I am reminded of a Professor I had in the early 70's who was unaware of what McDonald's was during a classroom discussion about American business practices!



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(5/3/05 1:21 pm)


WW,
keep that question in mind for when/if we do have Diamond appear for a chat!

Lori

That is everything we had lost from this thread!





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Post Re: Restored: "Ch. 2 - Twilight at Easter."
Quote:
(5/3/05 11:42 am) wwdimmitt said...

Lori:


Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
He states his unpopular opinions, backs them up, addresses his potential critics -- it's beautiful to read
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



I don't even know if Jared Diamond is very aware when his opinions/conclusions are unpopular. He focuses so intently on the logic of causation that popularity does not even enter into his calculus, IMO.

I am very impressed with his dedication to logic, and his ability to sort out ultimate causes for complex behavior patterns.



ww:

I so respect someone who is oblivious or doe not care about the implications of observations and subsequent exposition of said observations. I am always of the mind that "it is what it is".

I was reading the "Malthus in Africa" chapter last night and there was a great point that made me grab a pen and write it down. It is something I always believed. I will have to paraphrase as my notes are at home (Yes, I am being bad at work yet again!):

It is amazing how people get offended by explanations of evil because they feel the explanations are some kind of excuse for those who do evil...

...like those who study and try to understand why the Holocaust or Rwandan genocide happened. I do not feel that anyone who studies a topic empirically is out to defend the horror of 'evil', but just to understand. This reminds me of the recent Chomsky bashing by someone here...and the subsequent deletion of Chomsky from our reading list. I have not read Chomsky to be honest, but I looked into the allegations at the time and read some excerpts of Chomsky pertaining to the topic and did not feel he is an anti-semite.

People need to relax. I am ANNOYED!!! (Did'nt think I was going to squash my emotional diatribe en toto did you? ::100 )

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




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