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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: uneven_cyclist on February 03, 2021, 02:24:34 PM

Title: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 03, 2021, 02:24:34 PM
I recently watched David Attenborough's documentary, "A Life on Our Planet" and am left wondering if we, as the MMM / FIRE community, are part of the problem or part of the solution when it comes to slowing / reversing the decline of the natural world.

In the film, Attenborough documents the decline of wilderness during his lifetime from coverage of nearly 70% of the planet at the beginning of his life to just over 30% of the planet at present day.  Our economies -- the United States Economy being the most powerful of all -- have rapidly devoured our wilderness areas and sent our planet into a decline.

With this in mind, I am considering the MMM community and the FIRE movement from a fresh perspective.  The basic strategy that bloggers like MMM and others propose is to invest heavily in these powerful economies and to then live off of the dividends and interest.  While they do advocate a strategy that involves reducing consumption, which is absolutely fantastic, my concern is that building a movement based on investing heavily in these economies under the assumption that this is environmentalism might be a flawed assumption.

Questions:

1) Is it possible to invest in the United States Economy without also speeding the pace of environmental decline? 

2) I am aware that there are "socially responsible" indexes and funds...the majority of these funds strike me as very similar to the overall index in most cases with only slight edits to remove the very worst offenders when it comes to extractive industries and so on.  In other words, if you remove Exxon but you are still investing in Apple, then you are still profiting off of (and enabling/encouraging) the masses to buy new phones every 20 minutes, thus destroying what little wilderness remains...right?  Or am I missing something and are there funds/stocks/companies that are truly socially responsible when it comes to the environment and might actually be slowing/reversing the decline of wilderness?

3) Are there any creative solutions here?  Ideally it would be awesome to resist / slow / reverse the decline that is taking place while also enjoying the benefits of Mustachianism / FIRE.  However, I cannot escape a feeling that the externalities of our putting millions into the US economy is just feeding the beast that will eventually destroy the world.

4) Is our best strategy to just continue to invest heavily in the S&P 500 and then hope for top-down change?  Or are there ways for us to be more proactive about this? 

5) Are there things that I am missing and are there ways to put my mind at ease a bit about all of this?

Thoughts?  I would be grateful for any insights or advice that folks might have.

Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: nereo on February 03, 2021, 02:41:30 PM
How you live has the greatest impact on the planet for all but the most Uber wealthy individuals. Consume less and contribute to causes you believe in.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: WhiteTrashCash on February 03, 2021, 02:48:39 PM
Well, if we could get enough Vanguard investors to vote accordingly, we could push Vanguard as an entire organization to be more eco-friendly and that would make a massive difference since Vanguard has something like $3 trillion. If a bunch of Reddit bros could organize, then why not us?
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: YttriumNitrate on February 03, 2021, 03:08:30 PM
Well, if we could get enough Vanguard investors to vote accordingly, we could push Vanguard as an entire organization to be more eco-friendly and that would make a massive difference since Vanguard has something like $3 trillion. If a bunch of Reddit bros could organize, then why not us?

Good luck with that. A few years ago there was a vote as to whether Vanguard should avoid investing in companies that “substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity.” It lost by about a 5-to-1 margin.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: bacchi on February 03, 2021, 03:31:40 PM
If by "we" you mean everyone in the developed world, then yes. We're all part of the problem.

Any real solution would require a massive structural change that would, to a lot of us, represent a lower standard of living.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: GuitarStv on February 03, 2021, 03:35:20 PM
Currently, our economic system relies on the externalization of the vast majority of the effects of capitalism.  There exist no practical solutions to this that I can see.  It will continue until it has become an insurmountable and unstoppable problem . . . and then it will continue until we've rendered the Earth largely uninhabitable for all but a small elite and the surfs kept alive to service them.

On an individual level, a person can try to reduce their own consumption . . . and in many ways early retirement can be shaped to dovetail well into this.  It's not enough though, and never will be - but maybe you can make yourself feel a little better before dying and passing on a worse planet to others.

There's nothing that can be done regarding investment in the world destroying system.  Either you invest your money in the economic system profit from destruction of the world, or you don't.  But even if you don't, the money you earn from your job goes into a bank that then uses the proceeds from your investment to do the same.  So I say, might as well enrich yourself before we're all doomed, and maybe stretch out our miserable existence on this hunk of rock for another few years.  yolo.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: traveler on February 03, 2021, 04:01:40 PM
1) Is it possible to invest in the United States Economy without also speeding the pace of environmental decline?

Forget about investing. It is not possible to live in an industrialized economy without affecting the environment. Every expenditure we do has a CO2 footprint, and the only way for that footprint to be negative would be to invest in a well managed forest preservation non-profit.

I like then to focus on what I can control. I can eat less meat. I can choose to invest on companies with similar values as mine. I can also donate to non-profits. I can choose to have less children. Etc.

Recommended reading: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7230015-how-bad-are-bananas
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: ChpBstrd on February 03, 2021, 07:08:08 PM

1) Is it possible to invest in the United States Economy without also speeding the pace of environmental decline?

Yes, I think so. If I buy a stock or bond secondhand (i.e. not via an IPO), my money does not go back to the company to fund more palm oil plantations, coal power plants, or plastic bottle production lines. It goes to someone else, or a company of someone elses. If I take dividends, interest, or capital gains due to share buybacks from these companies, it does not enrich the companies. In contrast, I am literally taking their money away and giving them nothing in return. Each dividend I take or share buyback I profit from represents a reduction in the company's ability to grow.

2) I am aware that there are "socially responsible" indexes and funds...the majority of these funds strike me as very similar to the overall index in most cases with only slight edits to remove the very worst offenders when it comes to extractive industries and so on.  In other words, if you remove Exxon but you are still investing in Apple, then you are still profiting off of (and enabling/encouraging) the masses to buy new phones every 20 minutes, thus destroying what little wilderness remains...right?  Or am I missing something and are there funds/stocks/companies that are truly socially responsible when it comes to the environment and might actually be slowing/reversing the decline of wilderness?

I think it's complicated. Yes, big tech hardware requires all sorts of strip mining in various wildernesses and big data centers consume tons of electricity, but these things also allow me to work from home right now, which means I'm not driving a 3,000lb car to work, pumping several liters of pollution a second into the atmosphere. Additionally, my employer might foregoe the construction of a new office building because its employees can WFH, so my utility footprint just halved. After work, I can avoid driving from shopping center to shopping center looking for deals because Google and Amazon will do that for me. So is big tech carbon-heavy or carbon-negative, or is it about to swing another way? It's honestly hard to say. 

Suppose more and more investors piled into socially responsible investments, to the point where similar rated bonds of polluting companies yielded 5% more than the bonds of "green" companies. How long would such an imbalance last until someone figured out they could get a 5% higher yield at the same level of risk by loaning to polluting companies? How many people would pass up the opportunity to retire young and wealthy? How many of the socially responsible investors could resist the temptation not to work until they're 70 for a principle? Funding will flow to the highest return at any given level of risk regardless, so might as well index. 

3) Are there any creative solutions here?  Ideally it would be awesome to resist / slow / reverse the decline that is taking place while also enjoying the benefits of Mustachianism / FIRE.  However, I cannot escape a feeling that the externalisms of our putting millions into the US economy is just feeding the beast that will eventually destroy the world.

Companies do not clear cut forests, make millions of tons of plastic packaging, or pollute the air because investors are available. They make these ecology-destroying choices in response to demand from their customers. For example, if demand for airline flights went down 50%, but an investor frenzy drove American Airlines stock up 100% and their bond yields down to 2%, would there be more or fewer planes flying? Fewer of course. They aren't going to waste investors' money flying empty seats around, and if they did, more talented managers would soon be in charge. We can say the same thing about plastic future-trash, electricity generating stations, cars, McMansions, mylar balloons, cigarettes, etc. It's all driven by demand, not investment.

It has often been joked on this forum that the plan is to take money from the economy through work and investment, but to not put it back in through consumption, and if everybody did that the economy would collapse and the investment part of the plan would't work. The plan works as long as others over-consume while we under-consume. It's safe to say we can count on others to over-consume, which is bad for the planet. If we under-consume that is better for the planet regardless of what others do. If we can convince others to under-consume, as MMM is doing, that's a multiplied impact. MMM's blog is an example of a creative solutions. Letting all your over-consuming friends know when you retire at 40 or 45 is another. Under-consuming consists of thousands of creative solutions to life's little challenges, as many frugality blogs describe.   

4) Is our best strategy to just continue to invest heavily in the S&P 500 and then hope for top-down change?  Or are there ways for us to be more proactive about this?

I think so. Looking at one's levers of influence in order of power, there are:
a) Activism, organizing, and voting (extremely powerful)
b) Interpersonal influence (force multiplier)
c) Personal consumption decisions (limited)
d) Investing (essentially trying to create an economic arbitrage for others to exploit, pushing water uphill)
Viewed this way, spending $100 on activism/organizing has many times the impact of suffering $100 of investing underperformance due to paying a high expense ratio. The fund manager probably commutes across state lines in his 10 cylinder lambo anyway.

5) Are there things that I am missing and are there ways to put my mind at ease a bit about all of this?

This will not put your mind at ease: It is known that "socially responsible" investing will have zero effect on the world, and is only an exercise in self-exculpation. If one's stock/bond picking influences the price of an asset, that pricing imbalance will be arbitraged away by other investors or a supercomputer. The legacy of our most careful stock picking might be a blip on a chart that wouldn't be there otherwise, and that exists for a few seconds before being lost in the noise, and then that effect ends and is gone forever.

Perhaps if the socially responsible investor feels good about their behavior, they will consider their good deeds and conscientiousness as an offset for other behaviors, like buying fast food every once in a while, or driving a compact hybrid SUV instead of sedan, or not recycling as many of those goddamn plastic bags. Maybe as a socially conscientious investor, you deserve to turn the thermostat high in the winter instead of wearing clothes, and maybe you deserve a new cell phone.

Maybe they'll even brag on social media about going all-in on their socially responsible fund, causing their friends to think of environmentalism as a form of bragging within a certain clique.

What's really going on is that a person who cares about the environment has found a way to not feel bad about failing to help people organizing for change at the local level. They've found a way to avoid donating. They've found a way to call themselves an activist involved in a movement, when in fact they just bought another greenwashed product.

 



Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: RWD on February 03, 2021, 08:39:38 PM
Excellent post, @ChpBstrd. We added Amazon Conservation to our charities list a couple years ago. Because we participate in the stock market we harness some of the profits which in turn we can put towards environmental causes.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 03, 2021, 09:17:50 PM
Currently, our economic system relies on the externalization of the vast majority of the effects of capitalism.  There exist no practical solutions to this that I can see.  It will continue until it has become an insurmountable and unstoppable problem . . . and then it will continue until we've rendered the Earth largely uninhabitable for all but a small elite and the surfs kept alive to service them.

On an individual level, a person can try to reduce their own consumption . . . and in many ways early retirement can be shaped to dovetail well into this.  It's not enough though, and never will be - but maybe you can make yourself feel a little better before dying and passing on a worse planet to others.

There's nothing that can be done regarding investment in the world destroying system.  Either you invest your money in the economic system profit from destruction of the world, or you don't.  But even if you don't, the money you earn from your job goes into a bank that then uses the proceeds from your investment to do the same.  So I say, might as well enrich yourself before we're all doomed, and maybe stretch out our miserable existence on this hunk of rock for another few years.  yolo.

[laughing / crying]
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 03, 2021, 10:15:12 PM

1) Is it possible to invest in the United States Economy without also speeding the pace of environmental decline?

Yes, I think so. If I buy a stock or bond secondhand (i.e. not via an IPO), my money does not go back to the company to fund more palm oil plantations, coal power plants, or plastic bottle production lines. It goes to someone else, or a company of someone elses. If I take dividends, interest, or capital gains due to share buybacks from these companies, it does not enrich the companies. In contrast, I am literally taking their money away and giving them nothing in return. Each dividend I take or share buyback I profit from represents a reduction in the company's ability to grow.

2) I am aware that there are "socially responsible" indexes and funds...the majority of these funds strike me as very similar to the overall index in most cases with only slight edits to remove the very worst offenders when it comes to extractive industries and so on.  In other words, if you remove Exxon but you are still investing in Apple, then you are still profiting off of (and enabling/encouraging) the masses to buy new phones every 20 minutes, thus destroying what little wilderness remains...right?  Or am I missing something and are there funds/stocks/companies that are truly socially responsible when it comes to the environment and might actually be slowing/reversing the decline of wilderness?

I think it's complicated. Yes, big tech hardware requires all sorts of strip mining in various wildernesses and big data centers consume tons of electricity, but these things also allow me to work from home right now, which means I'm not driving a 3,000lb car to work, pumping several liters of pollution a second into the atmosphere. Additionally, my employer might foregoe the construction of a new office building because its employees can WFH, so my utility footprint just halved. After work, I can avoid driving from shopping center to shopping center looking for deals because Google and Amazon will do that for me. So is big tech carbon-heavy or carbon-negative, or is it about to swing another way? It's honestly hard to say. 

Suppose more and more investors piled into socially responsible investments, to the point where similar rated bonds of polluting companies yielded 5% more than the bonds of "green" companies. How long would such an imbalance last until someone figured out they could get a 5% higher yield at the same level of risk by loaning to polluting companies? How many people would pass up the opportunity to retire young and wealthy? How many of the socially responsible investors could resist the temptation not to work until they're 70 for a principle? Funding will flow to the highest return at any given level of risk regardless, so might as well index. 

3) Are there any creative solutions here?  Ideally it would be awesome to resist / slow / reverse the decline that is taking place while also enjoying the benefits of Mustachianism / FIRE.  However, I cannot escape a feeling that the externalisms of our putting millions into the US economy is just feeding the beast that will eventually destroy the world.

Companies do not clear cut forests, make millions of tons of plastic packaging, or pollute the air because investors are available. They make these ecology-destroying choices in response to demand from their customers. For example, if demand for airline flights went down 50%, but an investor frenzy drove American Airlines stock up 100% and their bond yields down to 2%, would there be more or fewer planes flying? Fewer of course. They aren't going to waste investors' money flying empty seats around, and if they did, more talented managers would soon be in charge. We can say the same thing about plastic future-trash, electricity generating stations, cars, McMansions, mylar balloons, cigarettes, etc. It's all driven by demand, not investment.

It has often been joked on this forum that the plan is to take money from the economy through work and investment, but to not put it back in through consumption, and if everybody did that the economy would collapse and the investment part of the plan would't work. The plan works as long as others over-consume while we under-consume. It's safe to say we can count on others to over-consume, which is bad for the planet. If we under-consume that is better for the planet regardless of what others do. If we can convince others to under-consume, as MMM is doing, that's a multiplied impact. MMM's blog is an example of a creative solutions. Letting all your over-consuming friends know when you retire at 40 or 45 is another. Under-consuming consists of thousands of creative solutions to life's little challenges, as many frugality blogs describe.   

4) Is our best strategy to just continue to invest heavily in the S&P 500 and then hope for top-down change?  Or are there ways for us to be more proactive about this?

I think so. Looking at one's levers of influence in order of power, there are:
a) Activism, organizing, and voting (extremely powerful)
b) Interpersonal influence (force multiplier)
c) Personal consumption decisions (limited)
d) Investing (essentially trying to create an economic arbitrage for others to exploit, pushing water uphill)
Viewed this way, spending $100 on activism/organizing has many times the impact of suffering $100 of investing underperformance due to paying a high expense ratio. The fund manager probably commutes across state lines in his 10 cylinder lambo anyway.

5) Are there things that I am missing and are there ways to put my mind at ease a bit about all of this?

This will not put your mind at ease: It is known that "socially responsible" investing will have zero effect on the world, and is only an exercise in self-exculpation. If one's stock/bond picking influences the price of an asset, that pricing imbalance will be arbitraged away by other investors or a supercomputer. The legacy of our most careful stock picking might be a blip on a chart that wouldn't be there otherwise, and that exists for a few seconds before being lost in the noise, and then that effect ends and is gone forever.

Perhaps if the socially responsible investor feels good about their behavior, they will consider their good deeds and conscientiousness as an offset for other behaviors, like buying fast food every once in a while, or driving a compact hybrid SUV instead of sedan, or not recycling as many of those goddamn plastic bags. Maybe as a socially conscientious investor, you deserve to turn the thermostat high in the winter instead of wearing clothes, and maybe you deserve a new cell phone.

Maybe they'll even brag on social media about going all-in on their socially responsible fund, causing their friends to think of environmentalism as a form of bragging within a certain clique.

What's really going on is that a person who cares about the environment has found a way to not feel bad about failing to help people organizing for change at the local level. They've found a way to avoid donating. They've found a way to call themselves an activist involved in a movement, when in fact they just bought another greenwashed product.

Two important themes are Investing and Consumption.  I'm with you on just about everything in your reply -- activism, the pitfalls of socially responsible investing, voting, and the value of reducing consumption.  You mentioned voting as well...another poster mentioned Vanguard and persuading them to pursue a more eco-friendly approach. 

This has made me think that I should look into getting involved with voting not just political elections but also in a corporate context with shareholder meetings.

As for investing...I had not considered a distinction between purchasing stocks through an IPO as opposed to buying them secondhand through a brokerage/another investor etc. which is what we are almost all doing most of the time.
 I'll have to learn a lot more about the ways in which investing plays a role in driving the economy, because your post made me realize that there is a lot I don't know.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 03, 2021, 10:16:07 PM
Well, if we could get enough Vanguard investors to vote accordingly, we could push Vanguard as an entire organization to be more eco-friendly and that would make a massive difference since Vanguard has something like $3 trillion. If a bunch of Reddit bros could organize, then why not us?

I love it!  Why not indeed? 
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 03, 2021, 10:38:37 PM
Well, if we could get enough Vanguard investors to vote accordingly, we could push Vanguard as an entire organization to be more eco-friendly and that would make a massive difference since Vanguard has something like $3 trillion. If a bunch of Reddit bros could organize, then why not us?

Good luck with that. A few years ago there was a vote as to whether Vanguard should avoid investing in companies that “substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity.” It lost by about a 5-to-1 margin.

That is incredibly disturbing.  It is useful though just to know that these votes take place.  I wonder how you would go about working on swinging that vote in the other direction the next time it comes up? 

Also...as unthinkable as it may be to imagine a world in which the US Economy were based on sustainable environmental practices (or to have a world without crimes against humanity) it is somewhat encouraging to consider that human behavior really can (and does) change over time.

Hopefully it can change fast enough!
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: mozar on February 04, 2021, 11:21:55 AM
We've been trained by corporate thinking that climate change is a matter of "personal responsibility." Each of us does not choose to put a plastic cushion in each amazon box that get shipped, amazon does that.
As a society we have been intimidated for decades into thinking that having a gas guzzling car as the only option to get around equates "freedom." The Koch brothers and other have donated tens of millions of dollars to congress to stop carbon trading and any other schemes to get us off oil and gas. They would donate more but our legislators are cheap.
There is a difference between retail investing (us), institutional investing (pensions etc) and financing. I don't think retail investors can move the needle much but large investors can and some are being pushed to divest from petroleum. And banks are starting to reconsider whether to give oil and gas companies millions in dollars in loans when governments are started to change energy policies.

Even if we do have a successful eco-transition, I think that unlimited growth and a focus on ever rising GDP will have to change. Which means that returns could be lower going forward. But I don't see that as big as a problem, that rich mmm people, will be less rich.
I haven't read this book but I heard it's a good read for people reconsidering economics: Doughnut Economics https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X9C63SX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

It's not my goal to put anyone's mind at ease though. We should be doing our best to change society whether that means planting trees, donating time/money, running for the school board, whatever. This is an all hands on deck situation, not a "hopefully other people will fix it" situation.

I think this sign I saw sums it up:

There is no capitalism on a dead planet.

Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Malcat on February 04, 2021, 12:04:19 PM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: nereo on February 04, 2021, 12:15:40 PM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

In some circles it's very unpopular to suggest that climate-change is occurring, and that we are the root cause of it.  Not sure whether this overlaps with the OP or not...
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Malcat on February 04, 2021, 12:16:33 PM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

In some circles it's very unpopular to suggest that climate-change is occurring, and that we are the root cause of it.  Not sure whether this overlaps with the OP or not...

I wouldn't call those circles the dominant discourse anymore though. Not globally.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: simonsez on February 04, 2021, 12:55:26 PM
Biggest problem with the medium to long-term^ future planet is the existence of humans.  Therefore, curbing growth of the species is probably better than creating more humans but telling them to use less plastic.  How do we do this without encroaching directly upon individual rights?  Education of females and access to contraception.  Nothing will slow down a birth rate faster in a developing economy than giving females equal access to education* with the ability to have any job in society coupled with (preferably non-stigmatized) access to contraception.  See demographic transition for more details (transition from high birth/death rate to low birth/death rate).  You could also disincentivize children via removing tax breaks but that doesn't seem to be very popular (yet).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition

^ In REALLY long terms, in a few hundred million years the sun will be so hot as a result of the helium buildup in its core (becoming denser, burns hotter to continue to fuse hydrogen in a slow runaway effect) that Earth's atmosphere will be stripped away and all of our water evaporated (we'll turn into Mercury).  Of course, we'll be engulfed completely by the sun after another 4-5 billion years as it starts its death expansion but all life will have already been long gone.

* This assumes a base level of infrastructure (access to clean water, sewage disposal) and a relatively stable economy.  I.e. The death rate has already dropped/started dropping.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: GuitarStv on February 04, 2021, 01:17:55 PM
It's not existence of humans, it's existence of high consuming humans.  The average North American uses what,50 times the resources of the average broke-ass impoverished third world dude?

Reducing birth rate helps nothing if we don't reduce the ever increasing consumption of those with means to do so.  But the economy is utterly dependent on that cycle of overconsumption - stagnation is death to capitalism.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: simonsez on February 04, 2021, 02:06:59 PM
It's not existence of humans, it's existence of high consuming humans.  The average North American uses what,50 times the resources of the average broke-ass impoverished third world dude?

Reducing birth rate helps nothing if we don't reduce the ever increasing consumption of those with means to do so.  But the economy is utterly dependent on that cycle of overconsumption - stagnation is death to capitalism.
Seems like semantics and is probably just a timeline issue.  While the current middle and upper classes of the world do consume quite a bit, I would guess the problem will be exacerbated when billions of Indians, Chinese, Nigerians, Ethiopians, people from the DRC, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Indonesians, Filipinos, Brazilians, Mexicans, etc. also start to live that more modern consumption lifestyle that higher social mobilization en masse will bring.  Of course I am generalizing and you can find wealthy people with access to modern amenities everywhere on the globe, just those countries with larger populations and proportions of adults that are not currently wealthy have a larger potential impact moving forward.

You find a way to bridge the gap from a broke-human-that-doesn't-consume-a-lot to rich-human-that-doesn't-consume-a-lot and there's global kudos coming your way.  Once parents decide to procreate and have offspring, that offspring is going to continue to improve their station in life or at least try.  Currently, that means consuming more.  I'll leave the demand side of the equation to engineers.  Supply side, if humans don't exist to begin with, they're not consuming anything.  I don't see why both demand & supply solutions can't work in concert.

So yeah, I agree the existence of too many high consuming humans is the problem but I still file that under the umbrella of "too many humans".  That problem is only getting worse as we get farther (further?) into the 21st century.  Humans are pretty good at not dying already.  Today, world life expectancy from birth is nearly 73 (think developed world in mid 1970s).  I.e. Not only do we have more humans than ever, and more humans consuming more than ever as they upwardly socially mobilize, they are also living longer than ever.  This indicates we're ready for the next stage, which is lowering the birth rate (which has happened and is happening in many areas already of course). 

Capitalism is one of many imperfect systems used in societies.  It's worked wonders while many countries are not at the final stages of the demographic transition.  I'm okay with a ZPG utopian society not relying on capitalism fueled on growth as the main driver for how we operate.

Also, this gets into advanced species galaxy exploration philosophy pretty quickly.  As a species goes up the Kardashev scale, is it inevitable that the only way to continue to progress indefinitely is to utilize other planets and star systems or is there a possibility to find an equilibrium on a planet before exhausting said planet?  If we can't harness space travel and we can't save the planet, all we can do is slow the acceleration of our species' demise? Blech, too depressing.

Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 04, 2021, 04:11:20 PM
1) Is it possible to invest in the United States Economy without also speeding the pace of environmental decline?

Forget about investing. It is not possible to live in an industrialized economy without affecting the environment. Every expenditure we do has a CO2 footprint, and the only way for that footprint to be negative would be to invest in a well managed forest preservation non-profit.

I like then to focus on what I can control. I can eat less meat. I can choose to invest on companies with similar values as mine. I can also donate to non-profits. I can choose to have less children. Etc.

Recommended reading: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7230015-how-bad-are-bananas

Thank you for this book recommendation!  I will check it out. 

I should say though that it would be difficult for me to forget about investing and that I suspect that my largest impact by far on the environment over my lifetime will not be from my personal consumption but rather from my investment portfolio.

It would be interesting to see a book about that!
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 04, 2021, 04:29:03 PM
We've been trained by corporate thinking that climate change is a matter of "personal responsibility." Each of us does not choose to put a plastic cushion in each amazon box that get shipped, amazon does that.
As a society we have been intimidated for decades into thinking that having a gas guzzling car as the only option to get around equates "freedom." The Koch brothers and other have donated tens of millions of dollars to congress to stop carbon trading and any other schemes to get us off oil and gas. They would donate more but our legislators are cheap.
There is a difference between retail investing (us), institutional investing (pensions etc) and financing. I don't think retail investors can move the needle much but large investors can and some are being pushed to divest from petroleum. And banks are starting to reconsider whether to give oil and gas companies millions in dollars in loans when governments are started to change energy policies.

Even if we do have a successful eco-transition, I think that unlimited growth and a focus on ever rising GDP will have to change. Which means that returns could be lower going forward. But I don't see that as big as a problem, that rich mmm people, will be less rich.
I haven't read this book but I heard it's a good read for people reconsidering economics: Doughnut Economics https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X9C63SX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

It's not my goal to put anyone's mind at ease though. We should be doing our best to change society whether that means planting trees, donating time/money, running for the school board, whatever. This is an all hands on deck situation, not a "hopefully other people will fix it" situation.

I think this sign I saw sums it up:

There is no capitalism on a dead planet.

Thanks mozar -- this does put my mind at ease just in the sense that there might be a path forward.  And I am optimistic that we, as retail investors, while not able to move the needle much ourselves, can likely find ways to punch above our weight by finding ways to join the conversation, to share ideas, to mobilize communities, and to build support in ways that can move larger pools of capital in the right direction.  I am not seeking to for anyone to put my mind at ease by giving me false optimism about a flawed system, but rather to help me understand possible paths forward so that we might be able to find solutions.  I fully agree that this is an all-hands-on-deck situation. 
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 04, 2021, 04:33:55 PM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

To clarify, by "we" I mean members of the MMM community and the FIRE movement.  I believe that sometimes it can be easy to believe that we, as people who have dramatically reduced our consumption, and who may have even donated a bit of the interest from our index funds to charity, have arrived at a place where we are actively contributing to healing the planet.  And in some cases, maybe some of us (certainly not me, at least not yet) are.  However, I am posting this because I want to challenge that assumption and I also want to figure out if there genuinely *are* ways to achieve the goal of slowing/reversing the decline of the natural world using the strategies of MMM/FIRE (i.e. dumping capital into index funds / living on interest / reducing consumption)...OR...if that approach is so vastly unsustainable that it is not possible to reconcile that lifestyle with a desire to stop the destruction of the world. 

For example, in his post "How to Carry a Big Wallet and Leave a Small Footprint," MMM argues that we should stop complaining and become part of the solution by investing in carbon offsets to reverse the impact of our consumption.  I of course agree with him 100% on this, but there is a huge elephant in the room: what about the impact of our investment portfolios? 

Buying carbon offsets and switching to solar power and reducing consumption are absolutely critical pieces of the puzzle, but I am curious to know how we might take the next, and probably most important, step.

From what folks are suggesting, it seems that perhaps the best option right now is to continue on our present course of dumping money into the indexes and living on the interest but to put all possible effort into volunteering, voting, reducing consumption, and reforming the system, such that over time, our economies and portfolios will *become* sustainable investment vehicles. 

Until that time, I'll stay tuned for any and all options that might become available, and I am grateful for everyone's thoughts and ideas here!
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 04, 2021, 05:58:57 PM
It's not existence of humans, it's existence of high consuming humans.  The average North American uses what,50 times the resources of the average broke-ass impoverished third world dude?

Reducing birth rate helps nothing if we don't reduce the ever increasing consumption of those with means to do so.  But the economy is utterly dependent on that cycle of overconsumption - stagnation is death to capitalism.
Seems like semantics and is probably just a timeline issue.  While the current middle and upper classes of the world do consume quite a bit, I would guess the problem will be exacerbated when billions of Indians, Chinese, Nigerians, Ethiopians, people from the DRC, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Indonesians, Filipinos, Brazilians, Mexicans, etc. also start to live that more modern consumption lifestyle that higher social mobilization en masse will bring.  Of course I am generalizing and you can find wealthy people with access to modern amenities everywhere on the globe, just those countries with larger populations and proportions of adults that are not currently wealthy have a larger potential impact moving forward.

You find a way to bridge the gap from a broke-human-that-doesn't-consume-a-lot to rich-human-that-doesn't-consume-a-lot and there's global kudos coming your way.  Once parents decide to procreate and have offspring, that offspring is going to continue to improve their station in life or at least try.  Currently, that means consuming more.  I'll leave the demand side of the equation to engineers.  Supply side, if humans don't exist to begin with, they're not consuming anything.  I don't see why both demand & supply solutions can't work in concert.

So yeah, I agree the existence of too many high consuming humans is the problem but I still file that under the umbrella of "too many humans".  That problem is only getting worse as we get farther (further?) into the 21st century.  Humans are pretty good at not dying already.  Today, world life expectancy from birth is nearly 73 (think developed world in mid 1970s).  I.e. Not only do we have more humans than ever, and more humans consuming more than ever as they upwardly socially mobilize, they are also living longer than ever.  This indicates we're ready for the next stage, which is lowering the birth rate (which has happened and is happening in many areas already of course). 

Capitalism is one of many imperfect systems used in societies.  It's worked wonders while many countries are not at the final stages of the demographic transition.  I'm okay with a ZPG utopian society not relying on capitalism fueled on growth as the main driver for how we operate.

Also, this gets into advanced species galaxy exploration philosophy pretty quickly.  As a species goes up the Kardashev scale, is it inevitable that the only way to continue to progress indefinitely is to utilize other planets and star systems or is there a possibility to find an equilibrium on a planet before exhausting said planet?  If we can't harness space travel and we can't save the planet, all we can do is slow the acceleration of our species' demise? Blech, too depressing.

The idea of bridging the gap between broke-human-that-doesn't-consume-a-lot to rich-human-that-doesn't-consume-a-lot is really interesting.  And yes, you would have major kudos coming your way if you were to figure out how to bridge this.  Millions of people who don't have cars in those countries right now are going to want cars and highways to drive them on just as millions of people in our country right now want houses and land to build them on and bigger cars for those highways and (fill in the blank).

One of the other concepts that Attenborough talks about in "A Life On Our Planet" is the idea that we are approaching peak population on Earth as nations develop and birth rates drop (which is fantastic) and that it will help us a lot in slowing/reversing environmental decline to reach this peak. 

Attenborough argues that one of the most powerful ways to reach this peak sooner--and it is really important that we reach it ASAP--is to educate children, and especially girls, in developing countries.  Doing so will help the birth rate in those countries drop rapidly.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Malcat on February 04, 2021, 06:00:33 PM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

To clarify, by "we" I mean members of the MMM community and the FIRE movement.  I believe that sometimes it can be easy to believe that we, as people who have dramatically reduced our consumption, and who may have even donated a bit of the interest from our index funds to charity, have arrived at a place where we are actively contributing to healing the planet.  And in some cases, maybe some of us (certainly not me, at least not yet) are.  However, I am posting this because I want to challenge that assumption and I also want to figure out if there genuinely *are* ways to achieve the goal of slowing/reversing the decline of the natural world using the strategies of MMM/FIRE (i.e. dumping capital into index funds / living on interest / reducing consumption)...OR...if that approach is so vastly unsustainable that it is not possible to reconcile that lifestyle with a desire to stop the destruction of the world. 

For example, in his post "How to Carry a Big Wallet and Leave a Small Footprint," MMM argues that we should stop complaining and become part of the solution by investing in carbon offsets to reverse the impact of our consumption.  I of course agree with him 100% on this, but there is a huge elephant in the room: what about the impact of our investment portfolios? 

Buying carbon offsets and switching to solar power and reducing consumption are absolutely critical pieces of the puzzle, but I am curious to know how we might take the next, and probably most important, step.

From what folks are suggesting, it seems that perhaps the best option right now is to continue on our present course of dumping money into the indexes and living on the interest but to put all possible effort into volunteering, voting, reducing consumption, and reforming the system, such that over time, our economies and portfolios will *become* sustainable investment vehicles. 

Until that time, I'll stay tuned for any and all options that might become available, and I am grateful for everyone's thoughts and ideas here!

I would be curious if Mustachians actually believe that they're not part of the problem just because they moderate their consumerism to a degree.

Personally, I assume most people here are smarter than that, or at least, less delusional, but you never know.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 05, 2021, 03:11:15 PM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

To clarify, by "we" I mean members of the MMM community and the FIRE movement.  I believe that sometimes it can be easy to believe that we, as people who have dramatically reduced our consumption, and who may have even donated a bit of the interest from our index funds to charity, have arrived at a place where we are actively contributing to healing the planet.  And in some cases, maybe some of us (certainly not me, at least not yet) are.  However, I am posting this because I want to challenge that assumption and I also want to figure out if there genuinely *are* ways to achieve the goal of slowing/reversing the decline of the natural world using the strategies of MMM/FIRE (i.e. dumping capital into index funds / living on interest / reducing consumption)...OR...if that approach is so vastly unsustainable that it is not possible to reconcile that lifestyle with a desire to stop the destruction of the world. 

For example, in his post "How to Carry a Big Wallet and Leave a Small Footprint," MMM argues that we should stop complaining and become part of the solution by investing in carbon offsets to reverse the impact of our consumption.  I of course agree with him 100% on this, but there is a huge elephant in the room: what about the impact of our investment portfolios? 

Buying carbon offsets and switching to solar power and reducing consumption are absolutely critical pieces of the puzzle, but I am curious to know how we might take the next, and probably most important, step.

From what folks are suggesting, it seems that perhaps the best option right now is to continue on our present course of dumping money into the indexes and living on the interest but to put all possible effort into volunteering, voting, reducing consumption, and reforming the system, such that over time, our economies and portfolios will *become* sustainable investment vehicles. 

Until that time, I'll stay tuned for any and all options that might become available, and I am grateful for everyone's thoughts and ideas here!

I would be curious if Mustachians actually believe that they're not part of the problem just because they moderate their consumerism to a degree.

Personally, I assume most people here are smarter than that, or at least, less delusional, but you never know.

My sense of the MMM community has evolved a bit since posting here...although of course I do need to keep in mind that the folks who are responding to this post are people those in the community who are interested in discussing climate change and the environment, and not everyone, so the responses may be a bit biased. 

With that said, while I was expecting responses along the lines of, "How can you say that we're part of the problem when typical FIRE / MMM investors have cut consumption by 75% and when we donate 150% more to environmental charities than the average person?  If anyone is part of the solution it is us."

Instead, the responses surprised me, and they have had a much more melancholy / resigned tone...that this problem is so vast in scale that there may not be a solution, but that the MMM and FIRE communities are contributing to the problem as much as anyone else and that while it would be fantastic to slow or reverse environmental decline, that we are nowhere close and that we may never figure it out before it's too late.

Notwithstanding the subject / title of this post, I do not believe that we must necessarily be a part of the problem.  I do believe that this community can be part of the solution, but there are big questions that remain unanswered. 

After reading responses, it is very clear that we need visionaries (like MMM and others) to urgently help with identifying a path toward this objective and to then shine a light on that path with a heavy dose of optimism. 

In the way that MMM and others illuminated the path on a personal level to take folks from a life of debt to a life of early retirement, we now need their help to chart a similar course on a societal level in order to halt the decline of the natural world (stop racking up debt) and then begin to repair the damage (invest in VTSAX) -- speaking in metaphor, I'm not saying that we need to literally stop racking up debt and invest in VTSAX in order to repair the world, but that we need help from visionaries like MMM to identify the equivalent actions that must be taken on a societal level in order to get out of the crisis.

I do not believe it would necessarily be delusional to think that we could not be part of the solution...and really I just posted that title in an effort to start up some conversation...and it is encouraging to see that I think a lot of us *want* to be a part of solving these problems.  My fear initially was that there might have been folks in the community whose outlook was, "I've reduced consumption and donated to charity.  I did my part, mission accomplished!"  Because if that were the case, then I think that those folks really *would* be part of the problem -- because this crisis requires more than that.

And although the situation right now is bad (really bad) I also believe that we can absolutely change the trajectory...and if we can do that, then we would absolutely be part of the solution.

More than anything, I am trying to figure out what actions I need to take in order to be a part of of solving this.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: MilesTeg on February 05, 2021, 05:13:38 PM
I choose to not RE precisely because I enjoy my work (which supports conservation and environmental restoration and development) and think it's important. I could take other jobs that would pay significantly more but even where I work I get paid very well.

I admit I am not personally the most responsible (but much better than most for sure!) but I have devoted all of my adult life to work that is about environmental conservation and I have no plan to stop anytime soon.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: mozar on February 05, 2021, 06:02:30 PM
Quote
After reading responses, it is very clear that we need visionaries (like MMM and others) to urgently help with identifying a path toward this objective and to then shine a light on that path with a heavy dose of optimism.

I think it's time for you to step up then.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 05, 2021, 08:38:36 PM
I choose to not RE precisely because I enjoy my work (which supports conservation and environmental restoration and development) and think it's important. I could take other jobs that would pay significantly more but even where I work I get paid very well.

I admit I am not personally the most responsible (but much better than most for sure!) but I have devoted all of my adult life to work that is about environmental conservation and I have no plan to stop anytime soon.

That is fantastic.  I sent you a message to learn more about this.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 05, 2021, 09:13:27 PM
Quote
After reading responses, it is very clear that we need visionaries (like MMM and others) to urgently help with identifying a path toward this objective and to then shine a light on that path with a heavy dose of optimism.

I think it's time for you to step up then.

Thanks mozar...although I am hardly a visionary...but I am working on figuring out how I can fit into the puzzle.  I'm realizing that I had reached a point of complacency with regard to wilderness, climate change, and the environment.  As someone who loves the outdoors, I have perhaps up to this point suffered from a bit of...okay, I'll admit it Malcat...delusion.

I have been aware of the broad strokes: human beings are causing significant, rapid climate change, we are losing wilderness areas, the population is growing...but I have voted for Democrats and my family is liberal, and I have always been a bicycle commuter, and I loved the outdoors, and so while the situation was concerning, it was also something that "they" were doing (Republicans, big oil companies, mining companies, and so on).  To be completely honest, I did *not* consider myself a part of the problem, not on an emotional level.  Yes, if someone asked me, I would say that I was contributing, but there is a big difference. 

When I read MMM, and he described a scene in one of his posts about liberal elite ultra consumers in the parking lot of a Whole Foods in the Bay Area, things began to resolve a bit more and the illusion began to fade away.  The pieces of the puzzle have been sitting there for years, and I would occasionally put them together, but never let the puzzle come together and really look at it and understand it.

When I watched David Attenborough's film, however, I saw the information delivered in such a way that the illusion shattered at once.  It was clear that wilderness areas were disappearing very rapidly.  But more than that, I am understanding that there are important puzzle pieces that are still missing, and I need to find them quickly.

Chief among these pieces: what is the environmental impact of investing in the S&P 500 (or other indexes)?  If I were to leave money in investments for 20 years (say) and then after that time donate to an environmental charity, would that be a good approach?  Or would it be better to make incremental donations over time?  If I allow funds to grow over time in an index, what damage are they causing to the environment?  Trying to figure these things out because my plan, on a personal level, is to build investments and then retire. 

For all of the easily accessible information about the carbon costs associated with consumption of any kind (gasoline, food, cosmetics, etc.) I have not been able to find a great deal of information about the environmental impact of investing. 

So...I'm understanding now that there is urgency to act, and trying to move past pushing blame for whatever environmental problems might exist in the world onto whatever bad guy might be destroying the environment during the most recent news cycle...and instead to understand and take ownership of my personal contributions.

I am also trying to learn about what action might look like for me and about how to best apply effort to slowing and reversing the decline of wilderness. 

In short: I want to step up, but I also sense that this is a situation where it would be very easy to take a step (or many steps) in the wrong direction, and I am hoping to avoid that.

I've already learned a huge amount during the past two days on this thread and am grateful to everyone for posting your thoughts and ideas.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 06, 2021, 01:48:27 AM

I haven't read this book but I heard it's a good read for people reconsidering economics: Doughnut Economics https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X9C63SX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


Also thank you for the book recommendation, I just put it on hold in Libby and will read it as soon as it becomes available.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: WhiteTrashCash on February 06, 2021, 05:59:38 AM
Retail investors are a tiny portion of people holding stocks from the S&P 500, but if we could grow that percentage, it would be a great thing. If money is in the hands of people with conscience, we have a fighting chance to change things. I mean, look at someone like Elon Musk who watched the documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car” and then set out to found Tesla and Solar City to purposefully make change happen. When money gets into the hands of people who want to make a difference, then positive action can take place. It just up to all of us to make that change happen in our society.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Wolfpack Mustachian on February 06, 2021, 06:46:00 AM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

To clarify, by "we" I mean members of the MMM community and the FIRE movement.  I believe that sometimes it can be easy to believe that we, as people who have dramatically reduced our consumption, and who may have even donated a bit of the interest from our index funds to charity, have arrived at a place where we are actively contributing to healing the planet.  And in some cases, maybe some of us (certainly not me, at least not yet) are.  However, I am posting this because I want to challenge that assumption and I also want to figure out if there genuinely *are* ways to achieve the goal of slowing/reversing the decline of the natural world using the strategies of MMM/FIRE (i.e. dumping capital into index funds / living on interest / reducing consumption)...OR...if that approach is so vastly unsustainable that it is not possible to reconcile that lifestyle with a desire to stop the destruction of the world. 

For example, in his post "How to Carry a Big Wallet and Leave a Small Footprint," MMM argues that we should stop complaining and become part of the solution by investing in carbon offsets to reverse the impact of our consumption.  I of course agree with him 100% on this, but there is a huge elephant in the room: what about the impact of our investment portfolios? 

Buying carbon offsets and switching to solar power and reducing consumption are absolutely critical pieces of the puzzle, but I am curious to know how we might take the next, and probably most important, step.

From what folks are suggesting, it seems that perhaps the best option right now is to continue on our present course of dumping money into the indexes and living on the interest but to put all possible effort into volunteering, voting, reducing consumption, and reforming the system, such that over time, our economies and portfolios will *become* sustainable investment vehicles. 

Until that time, I'll stay tuned for any and all options that might become available, and I am grateful for everyone's thoughts and ideas here!

I would be curious if Mustachians actually believe that they're not part of the problem just because they moderate their consumerism to a degree.

Personally, I assume most people here are smarter than that, or at least, less delusional, but you never know.

I don't think we as Mustachians in general could claim they're we're not part of the problem. I do think it could be easily argued that someone like MMM is not part of the problem in the "net" sense. Completely spitballing here, but I feel fairly certain that through the people he's reached, MMM has helped reduce the world carbon footprint significantly more than he has contributed to it. That one is an easy one, but sometimes I do think about how much of an influence I or any average person (not with a level of reaching people in the celebrity world) would have to have on others to offset what I do.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Malcat on February 06, 2021, 07:17:20 AM
I'm sorry, how is it an unpopular opinion that we're part of the problem?

Isn't that the dominant discourse??

To clarify, by "we" I mean members of the MMM community and the FIRE movement.  I believe that sometimes it can be easy to believe that we, as people who have dramatically reduced our consumption, and who may have even donated a bit of the interest from our index funds to charity, have arrived at a place where we are actively contributing to healing the planet.  And in some cases, maybe some of us (certainly not me, at least not yet) are.  However, I am posting this because I want to challenge that assumption and I also want to figure out if there genuinely *are* ways to achieve the goal of slowing/reversing the decline of the natural world using the strategies of MMM/FIRE (i.e. dumping capital into index funds / living on interest / reducing consumption)...OR...if that approach is so vastly unsustainable that it is not possible to reconcile that lifestyle with a desire to stop the destruction of the world. 

For example, in his post "How to Carry a Big Wallet and Leave a Small Footprint," MMM argues that we should stop complaining and become part of the solution by investing in carbon offsets to reverse the impact of our consumption.  I of course agree with him 100% on this, but there is a huge elephant in the room: what about the impact of our investment portfolios? 

Buying carbon offsets and switching to solar power and reducing consumption are absolutely critical pieces of the puzzle, but I am curious to know how we might take the next, and probably most important, step.

From what folks are suggesting, it seems that perhaps the best option right now is to continue on our present course of dumping money into the indexes and living on the interest but to put all possible effort into volunteering, voting, reducing consumption, and reforming the system, such that over time, our economies and portfolios will *become* sustainable investment vehicles. 

Until that time, I'll stay tuned for any and all options that might become available, and I am grateful for everyone's thoughts and ideas here!

I would be curious if Mustachians actually believe that they're not part of the problem just because they moderate their consumerism to a degree.

Personally, I assume most people here are smarter than that, or at least, less delusional, but you never know.

My sense of the MMM community has evolved a bit since posting here...although of course I do need to keep in mind that the folks who are responding to this post are people those in the community who are interested in discussing climate change and the environment, and not everyone, so the responses may be a bit biased. 

With that said, while I was expecting responses along the lines of, "How can you say that we're part of the problem when typical FIRE / MMM investors have cut consumption by 75% and when we donate 150% more to environmental charities than the average person?  If anyone is part of the solution it is us."

Instead, the responses surprised me, and they have had a much more melancholy / resigned tone...that this problem is so vast in scale that there may not be a solution, but that the MMM and FIRE communities are contributing to the problem as much as anyone else and that while it would be fantastic to slow or reverse environmental decline, that we are nowhere close and that we may never figure it out before it's too late.

Notwithstanding the subject / title of this post, I do not believe that we must necessarily be a part of the problem.  I do believe that this community can be part of the solution, but there are big questions that remain unanswered. 

After reading responses, it is very clear that we need visionaries (like MMM and others) to urgently help with identifying a path toward this objective and to then shine a light on that path with a heavy dose of optimism. 

In the way that MMM and others illuminated the path on a personal level to take folks from a life of debt to a life of early retirement, we now need their help to chart a similar course on a societal level in order to halt the decline of the natural world (stop racking up debt) and then begin to repair the damage (invest in VTSAX) -- speaking in metaphor, I'm not saying that we need to literally stop racking up debt and invest in VTSAX in order to repair the world, but that we need help from visionaries like MMM to identify the equivalent actions that must be taken on a societal level in order to get out of the crisis.

I do not believe it would necessarily be delusional to think that we could not be part of the solution...and really I just posted that title in an effort to start up some conversation...and it is encouraging to see that I think a lot of us *want* to be a part of solving these problems.  My fear initially was that there might have been folks in the community whose outlook was, "I've reduced consumption and donated to charity.  I did my part, mission accomplished!"  Because if that were the case, then I think that those folks really *would* be part of the problem -- because this crisis requires more than that.

And although the situation right now is bad (really bad) I also believe that we can absolutely change the trajectory...and if we can do that, then we would absolutely be part of the solution.

More than anything, I am trying to figure out what actions I need to take in order to be a part of of solving this.

You seem to be categorizing individuals as "part of the problem" vs "part of the solution" and it's just not that simple.

Most people engaged in personal mitigation efforts are both.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: mozar on February 06, 2021, 09:40:12 AM
Quote
In short: I want to step up, but I also sense that this is a situation where it would be very easy to take a step (or many steps) in the wrong direction, and I am hoping to avoid that.

I think your being too hard for yourself. It's about putting one foot in front of another. If you feel like your going in the wrong direction, change directions. If you're feeling overwhelmed try volunteering for a conservancy non profit. The path doesn't appear until you start the journey.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: SunnyDays on February 06, 2021, 11:06:23 AM
Absolutely, we are ALL part of the problem.  At least in developed countries.  The only true environmentalists are the native peoples of the world who still live by hunting/gathering and never take more than they need for survival.  Unfortunately, there aren't many of them left and the ones that are must fight to retain their way of life.  Most are losing to "progress" and "higher standard of living."  When you measure anyone else's consumption pattern against them, we're a HUGE problem, even the most Mustachian of us (unless you're homesteading off the grid, then you're doing better). 

With the vast majority of people concerned only with how they can get more for less money, the planet is most likely doomed.  The best we can do is slow things down enough that maayyyybe technology will have a chance to catch up and provide some truly revolutionary way to save us, because I can't see enough people caring on an individual level to really change things.

In the meantime, I do what I can and support causes like the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, etc.  At least I try to offset the worst offenders that I know personally.  That gives me some comfort.

(I agree with you, Malcat, that lots of people are also part of the solution, but I think it's less than the same person is part of the problem.  So, it's a net loss, in my opinion.)
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Fishindude on February 06, 2021, 12:32:06 PM
Why not quit worrying about that big picture stuff you can do little about and do something REAL, that you can see an impact from immediately.
Plant some trees or habitat, restore or clean up a dumpy property, pick up trash along the roadside or riverbank, walk or bike places instead of driving, reduce consumption of throw away items, etc., etc.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Bloop Bloop Reloaded on February 06, 2021, 05:17:07 PM
The easiest way to reduce our impact is to have fewer children. This is something I'm doing. If others aren't willing to do it, or legislate caps on having children, then that is their problem.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: GuitarStv on February 06, 2021, 05:32:06 PM
The easiest way to reduce our impact is to have fewer children. This is something I'm doing. If others aren't willing to do it, or legislate caps on having children, then that is their problem.

This reasoning doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

50 dirt poor kids in a third world country are going to use fewer resources over their lives than one average middle income dude in North America.  Children aren't the problem.  Living a middle class (or better) lifestyle is.  By putting the blame on kids, it relieves one of having to scrutinize the systemic problems with the way we rich people live.

The birth rate in Canada has been below replacement for a while now.  If kids were the issue, we would see improvement in pollution and environmental damage each year . . . instead we see the opposite.  Legislating caps on the number of children clearly has no chance of working.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Bloop Bloop Reloaded on February 06, 2021, 05:42:05 PM
The easiest way to reduce our impact is to have fewer children. This is something I'm doing. If others aren't willing to do it, or legislate caps on having children, then that is their problem.

This reasoning doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

50 dirt poor kids in a third world country are going to use fewer resources over their lives than one average middle income dude in North America.  Children aren't the problem.  Living a middle class (or better) lifestyle is.  By putting the blame on kids, it relieves one of having to scrutinize the systemic problems with the way we rich people live.

The birth rate in Canada has been below replacement for a while now.  If kids were the issue, we would see improvement in pollution and environmental damage each year . . . instead we see the opposite.  Legislating caps on the number of children clearly has no chance of working.

So if it's middle income people that are the problem then stop them having children. I didn't say anything about dirt poor people needing to stop having children (though I suspect it would be better for them to stop as well).

Don't tell me that I as a rich person with no children - and with less consumption [spending] than the average household - consume or use more resources than a middle class person with three (or two, or even one) child. That doesn't add up.

The real issue here in rich countries is that we're still having too many kids - even if marginally below replacement rate. If we all had one kid each and we let our population stagnate the world would be much better off. Till middle class families are okay with that, they can bear the blame for resource consumption. A middle class family that has 2-3 children each of whom has 2-3 children will have a much greater lifetime carbon footprint than a rich couple with 1 kid.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: swashbucklinstache on February 06, 2021, 07:29:30 PM
Quote
In short: I want to step up, but I also sense that this is a situation where it would be very easy to take a step (or many steps) in the wrong direction, and I am hoping to avoid that.

I think your being too hard for yourself. It's about putting one foot in front of another. If you feel like your going in the wrong direction, change directions. If you're feeling overwhelmed try volunteering for a conservancy non profit. The path doesn't appear until you start the journey.
You are both correct. Thankfully lots of people are thinking a lot about this so you don't have to solve everything yourself!

Check out https://80000hours.org/ (https://80000hours.org/)

I think there will be a lot in there about how you can help, given your particular skills. That community has a lot to say, from high level career-long things down to what can you do today. They acknowledge and have some numbers around the idea that for some people, the most effective thing they can do is maximize their earnings and donate. I haven't put too much scrutiny to this site because my chosen career path is already pretty much in line with their thinking. It's more along the lines of career and $ than permaculture type things, which are also great but a little less on topic.

I will admit I haven't read much myself about investing's impact. I guess I just assumed that, say, 12 years working for the man plus investing 1 million dollars was < actively working to solve the problem the rest of the time or at least as good as I could do. Maybe not though, more reading for me as well.

They do say this, but I think MMMers can do better than their audience.
Quote
We’re unsure in general how much people should be investing vs. spending now on the most pressing causes.

It is intriguing though. Might a paycheck to paycheck frugal lifestyle, working in a job doing good for humanity, with maybe a 250k buffer be better for the planet than FIRE? No idea =).

The closest I've found on that site is this, which basically boils down to "don't donate all your money" to me.
https://80000hours.org/2015/11/why-everyone-even-our-readers-should-save-enough-to-live-for-6-24-months/ (https://80000hours.org/2015/11/why-everyone-even-our-readers-should-save-enough-to-live-for-6-24-months/)

It is worth noting that, according to their analysis, climate change is in the second tier of ways for any otherwise generic person to make a difference.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: GuitarStv on February 07, 2021, 10:07:54 AM
The easiest way to reduce our impact is to have fewer children. This is something I'm doing. If others aren't willing to do it, or legislate caps on having children, then that is their problem.

This reasoning doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

50 dirt poor kids in a third world country are going to use fewer resources over their lives than one average middle income dude in North America.  Children aren't the problem.  Living a middle class (or better) lifestyle is.  By putting the blame on kids, it relieves one of having to scrutinize the systemic problems with the way we rich people live.

The birth rate in Canada has been below replacement for a while now.  If kids were the issue, we would see improvement in pollution and environmental damage each year . . . instead we see the opposite.  Legislating caps on the number of children clearly has no chance of working.

So if it's middle income people that are the problem then stop them having children. I didn't say anything about dirt poor people needing to stop having children (though I suspect it would be better for them to stop as well).

Don't tell me that I as a rich person with no children - and with less consumption [spending] than the average household - consume or use more resources than a middle class person with three (or two, or even one) child. That doesn't add up.

The real issue here in rich countries is that we're still having too many kids - even if marginally below replacement rate. If we all had one kid each and we let our population stagnate the world would be much better off. Till middle class families are okay with that, they can bear the blame for resource consumption. A middle class family that has 2-3 children each of whom has 2-3 children will have a much greater lifetime carbon footprint than a rich couple with 1 kid.

Canada has been below replacement for years.  If your theory is correct . . . why is our pollution output increasing with fewer children, rather than decreasing?

With fewer children our economy requires immigration to continue growth . . . so it's not like there are going to be fewer people in a country with fewer children.  There will just be more immigrants.  Unless your goal is to tank the economy.  If so, you're probably doing the right thing for the environment (less production and economic contraction is almost always great for the environment!) but will have a really tough sell.

But it's not just middle income people who are the problem . . . it's money.  The richer people are, the bigger their carbon footprint typically.  That's why the average carbon footprint of someone living in Beverly Hills is about five times what someone living in South Central LA is (https://apnews.com/article/be099434a414a0cb647640ce45f8e6fc (https://apnews.com/article/be099434a414a0cb647640ce45f8e6fc)).  Might be worth just taxing the rich and middle class until they're poor . . . then they can't afford to keep polluting.

By world population there's just no comparison at all.  Us rich people are the problem because of our consumption.  Consumption that is driven by wealth.
(https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/1iv0F4l_n3SAGD-yBFLJKr6b2XQ=/0x0:1514x1106/920x0/filters:focal(0x0:1514x1106):format(webp):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9787801/oxfam_extreme_carbon_inequality_021215.jpg)
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: mozar on February 07, 2021, 11:08:01 AM
Blaming rich individuals (top ten percent globally has 92k of net worth) obfuscates the much larger issues.

Yes a wealthy person is more likely to buy a gas guzzling SUV or truck, but they have to drive every where because zoning laws require everything to be spread out.

Many rich individuals are eating meat 3 times a day 7 days a week while cow grazing is a major source or world deforestation. But it's the government that is subsidizing cow and chicken feed, making meat significantly cheaper than it would otherwise be (some studies say up to 30%), due to powerful lobbying from corporations.

Focusing on personal responsibility: what job should I get, should I have children, should I invest in the stock market, etc. takes your focus away from the big issues and prevents people from doing the work that needs to be done, like activism, voting drives, planting trees or whatever.



Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Michael in ABQ on February 07, 2021, 11:56:00 AM
I recently watched David Attenborough's documentary, "A Life on Our Planet" and am left wondering if we, as the MMM / FIRE community, are part of the problem or part of the solution when it comes to slowing / reversing the decline of the natural world.

In the film, Attenborough documents the decline of wilderness during his lifetime from coverage of nearly 70% of the planet at the beginning of his life to just over 30% of the planet at present day.  Our economies -- the United States Economy being the most powerful of all -- have rapidly devoured our wilderness areas and sent our planet into a decline.


I find that number hard to believe considering how much of the population is now in urban areas. I spend a lot of time looking at maps and satellite imagery and see a lot of uninhabited areas. What do they consider "wilderness"? I mean most of Canada and Russia are undeveloped and would probably be considered wilderness, as are large swaths of the western US. There are places that used to be farmed that have now reverted to wilderness. In my state I can drive for miles and never see a single house and nothing more than an occasional fence.   
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: swashbucklinstache on February 07, 2021, 12:21:21 PM
Blaming rich individuals (top ten percent globally has 92k of net worth) obfuscates the much larger issues.

Yes a wealthy person is more likely to buy a gas guzzling SUV or truck, but they have to drive every where because zoning laws require everything to be spread out.

Many rich individuals are eating meat 3 times a day 7 days a week while cow grazing is a major source or world deforestation. But it's the government that is subsidizing cow and chicken feed, making meat significantly cheaper than it would otherwise be (some studies say up to 30%), due to powerful lobbying from corporations.

Focusing on personal responsibility: what job should I get, should I have children, should I invest in the stock market, etc. takes your focus away from the big issues and prevents people from doing the work that needs to be done, like activism, voting drives, planting trees or whatever.
Just a quick note, though I'm sure we'll all aware, that "what job should I get" and "...doing the work that needs to be done, like activism, voting drives, planting trees or whatever" can be the very same thing rather than opposed. e.g. https://80000hours.org/key-ideas/#career-categories (https://80000hours.org/key-ideas/#career-categories). I only comment to note that there are a lot more ways to contribute than a stereotypical chaining of oneself or oneself's career to a tree.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Bloop Bloop Reloaded on February 07, 2021, 03:14:10 PM
Rich people are not the problem - rich people consuming lots are the problem. Therefore "we" Mustachians are not likely to be the problem. If I earn 3x the average income but only consume 1x then I am only as much of a problem as a middle class person. And if I have one kid and they have three then they are creating 3x the problem I am.

Time to take personal responsibility for consumption and popping out children.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: samanil on February 07, 2021, 03:29:48 PM
Those are some big tough questions, and I don't have a complete answer to them.

However, I do highly recommend the book "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think". That book argues, convincingly, that technological advancement actually holds the solutions to most of the problems that we face. If so, then investing in the US economy, from a big picture perspective, is positive. Sure there are some negative effects, but over the long run you are funding a system that will generate solutions to the problems we face.

The book also argues that our perception of how dire our current situation is is skewed by 1) the structure of the human brain, which is designed to be hyper sensitive to danger, such that it over detects danger and has a skewed perception of reality and 2) the media, which takes advantage of this bias in the brain by portraying our situation as being much more grim than it really is. Steven Pinker also talks about this phenomenon in his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature", in which he argues that we are living in the most peaceful and prosperous time in our species existence, and the trends suggest that it's only getting better--pretty much the opposite all the doom and gloom in the media and politics. He emphasizes that we still have big problems that need to be addressed, but the massive progress we've made as a species is essential to informing our perception of those problems, and how to address them.

Another book to check out (I haven't read it but want to) is "Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All". The gist of that book, from what I can tell, is that there are indeed serious environmental problems that need to be addressed, but the doomsday scenarios that are peddled by the media and environmental activists (whose job stability and sense of self worth are positively correlated with how disastrous people believe the situation to be) are exaggerated and get in the way of addressing the real problems. That's my understanding of the gist of the book--but haven't read it so take that with a grain of salt.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Michael in ABQ on February 07, 2021, 05:08:14 PM
Those are some big tough questions, and I don't have a complete answer to them.

However, I do highly recommend the book "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think". That book argues, convincingly, that technological advancement actually holds the solutions to most of the problems that we face. If so, then investing in the US economy, from a big picture perspective, is positive. Sure there are some negative effects, but over the long run you are funding a system that will generate solutions to the problems we face.

The book also argues that our perception of how dire our current situation is is skewed by 1) the structure of the human brain, which is designed to be hyper sensitive to danger, such that it over detects danger and has a skewed perception of reality and 2) the media, which takes advantage of this bias in the brain by portraying our situation as being much more grim than it really is. Steven Pinker also talks about this phenomenon in his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature", in which he argues that we are living in the most peaceful and prosperous time in our species existence, and the trends suggest that it's only getting better--pretty much the opposite all the doom and gloom in the media and politics. He emphasizes that we still have big problems that need to be addressed, but the massive progress we've made as a species is essential to informing our perception of those problems, and how to address them.

Another book to check out (I haven't read it but want to) is "Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All". The gist of that book, from what I can tell, is that there are indeed serious environmental problems that need to be addressed, but the doomsday scenarios that are peddled by the media and environmental activists (whose job stability and sense of self worth are positively correlated with how disastrous people believe the situation to be) are exaggerated and get in the way of addressing the real problems. That's my understanding of the gist of the book--but haven't read it so take that with a grain of salt.

In the coming decades we will probably start harnessing resources from space - both energy beamed down from solar satellite arrays as well as metals from asteroids. Potentially some manufacturing will move into space as well. This is virtually unlimited resources. Even a very small asteroid can contain more metal than is mined on Earth for multiple years. If we can crack fusion energy it will also be a game-changer as it can eliminate fossil fuels for electricity production. We're already on the path to transitioning from gasoline and diesel powered vehicles to electric. I'll take human ingenuity over doom and gloom any day.


I recently read an article about polar bear populations. As we all know Polar Bears are going to be extinct soon due to global warming.
Global Warming Is Driving Polar Bears Toward Extinction, Researchers Say
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/20/climate/polar-bear-extinction.html

Climate change: Polar bears could be lost by 2100 - BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53474445  (https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53474445)

Except maybe not
https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/truth-about-polar-bears
Quote
The current scientific consensus places the worldwide polar bear population between 20,000 and 25,000 animals. Prior to the 1973 worldwide restriction on commerical polar bear hunting, that number was dramatically lower, so low that a meeting of polar bear specialists in 1965 concluded that extinction was a real possibility. Some reports even estimated the number of bears as low as 5,000 worldwide. Yet by 1990, Ian Stirling — at the time, the senior research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service and a professor of zoology at the University of Alberta; basically, one of the most respected polar bear scientists on the planet — felt comfortable answering the question as to whether polar bears are an endangered species by stating flatly: “They are not.” He went on to say that “the world population of polar bears is certainly greater than 20,000 and could be as high as 40,000 … I am inclined toward the upper end of that range.” Although old studies are sketchy, clearly more polar bears are alive today than there were 50 years ago, an essentially heartening fact that has not managed to pierce the public consciousness.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: samanil on February 07, 2021, 07:00:05 PM
Nice insight about the polar bears! There's a polar bear on the cover of apocalypse never. While I didn't know that, I'm not surprised, as it seems the general perception of things is usually off if not backwards!
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Linea_Norway on February 08, 2021, 03:57:56 AM
@uneven_cyclist
You might want to look into Deep Adaptation, a movement that wants to prepare in the best way for the inevitable climate changes. You can find a community on fb.

For green investments, you could consider buying/creating rentals that are energy-modern, with solar panels and not car dependent. Or even buy a large house on a farm and get people like you to live there with you, driving it together as a coop. I recently saw an add for for an extra tennant such a house in Oslo. It was not on a farm, but they had a large garden to grow food. But the idea is that you with your investments buy the green place to live and your renters pay you your profit, while living in a green way.

You can also run for politics in your community and join a green party (or the greenest).

I have my money in a (Norwegian) index fund that is called "more societal responsibility". It has the same low price as the world wide index fund, but doesn't buy the worst weapons and polluters. I think they created the fund because there was a strong demand for people to invest in something more responsible. You should all ask vanguard to also offer such a fund, maybe if enough people donit will help.

I think there is one thing Mustachians often do that contributes a lot to our CO2 ommissions and that is travel hacking. Travel by air has a really big environmental impact. Even MMM himself used to have his yearly meetings in farawayistan. We should at least try not to become frequent flyers, but rather practice other forms for (slow) travel.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: GuitarStv on February 08, 2021, 06:56:02 AM
Except maybe not
https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/truth-about-polar-bears
Quote
The current scientific consensus places the worldwide polar bear population between 20,000 and 25,000 animals. Prior to the 1973 worldwide restriction on commerical polar bear hunting, that number was dramatically lower, so low that a meeting of polar bear specialists in 1965 concluded that extinction was a real possibility. Some reports even estimated the number of bears as low as 5,000 worldwide. Yet by 1990, Ian Stirling — at the time, the senior research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service and a professor of zoology at the University of Alberta; basically, one of the most respected polar bear scientists on the planet — felt comfortable answering the question as to whether polar bears are an endangered species by stating flatly: “They are not.” He went on to say that “the world population of polar bears is certainly greater than 20,000 and could be as high as 40,000 … I am inclined toward the upper end of that range.” Although old studies are sketchy, clearly more polar bears are alive today than there were 50 years ago, an essentially heartening fact that has not managed to pierce the public consciousness.

Nice insight about the polar bears! There's a polar bear on the cover of apocalypse never. While I didn't know that, I'm not surprised, as it seems the general perception of things is usually off if not backwards!



I mean . . . you could cherry pick something someone says that supports your viewpoint and drop the rest of the article.  But that would be kinda dishonest.  Maybe you should post some of the other quotes from the article, where it explains that polar bear management is more complicated than a single number of one population of bears - and that part of the problem with polar bear study is that there wasn't any good way of monitoring numbers from 50 years ago.  We don't know what populations were . . . just have some rough estimates and guesses.  What we do see in the living bear population doesn't seem good.  Fewer young, lower body weights.  The populations that have grown are linked to laws that prevent bear hunting or hunting of common foods that the bears eat.

"...a closer look reveals that everything may not be quite so sunny. “Some populations appear to be doing OK now, but what’s frightening is what might happen in the very near future,” says wildlife biologist Lily Peacock, who has worked with polar bears for the Government of Nunavut and the U.S. Geological Survey. “All indications are that the future does not look bright.” While population trends might appear stable, she says, “we’re picking up declines in body condition that are really frightening.” Scientists have shown a direct correlation between warm years and skinny bears. Even more distressing, one study predicted that 40 to 73 percent of pregnant females could fail to deliver healthy cubs if ice breakup happens one month earlier than in the 1990s. Polar bears are long-lived animals that reproduce slowly; counting the number of animals that are alive today might not paint an accurate picture."

"Take the population in the greater Churchill area, for example, which was analyzed in a 2012 paper entitled Western Hudson Bay Polar Bear Aerial Survey. While the Government of Nunavut, which commissioned the study, was quick to trumpet an increase in polar bear numbers — and call for higher hunting quotas — the University of Minnesota scientists who actually did the work were more judicious. The sea ice in Hudson Bay is now breaking up two to three weeks earlier than it did three decades ago. And since a bear on land is easier to spot from a helicopter than a bear on the ice, catastrophically early ice breakup may have just made the bears more visible. By that logic, a higher count could actually be evidence that the bears are doing worse.

Even more troublesome is the fact that the number of cubs observed in the western Hudson Bay population is dramatically lower than in the past. While adult bears may be fat and savvy enough to survive a few lean years, juvenile bears reach a tipping point quickly. Despite the triumphal notes sounded by the Nunavut government, the study’s authors point out that the scarcity of cubs undercuts the entire hypothesis that “increasing numbers of bears … are the result of overall subpopulation growth.”"

"In Davis Strait, for example, both the extent and thickness of the sea ice have been declining dramatically. In theory, this should be trouble for the local bears, which, like polar bears everywhere else, rely on solid sea ice as a hunting platform. Yet this population is an eye-popping 233 percent bigger than it was four decades ago. It’s tempting to simply declare victory and walk away. And yet this new-found abundance is entirely the result of local management practices that originally had nothing to do with bears. Specifically, in 1983, the European Economic Community banned the importation of the hides of whitecoat harp seal pups. In most places, the polar bear diet consists primarily of ringed or bearded seals. But polar bears aren’t picky eaters; when harp seal populations exploded, polar bears gorged. On the other hand, one theory holds that the loss of sea ice could encourage killer whales to move into polar bear habitat, snatching up all the seals and becoming the new dominant marine mammal."


Then there's the classification of polar bears by every country that has populations (https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/population/ (https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/population/)):
International: Vulnerable
Canada: Special Concern
Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
Norway: Vulnerable
Russia: Indeterminate, Rare, or Recovering, depending on population
United States: Threatened



Polar bears aren't my primary concern with climate change, but there's no need to misrepresent the situation as A-OK.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Linea_Norway on February 08, 2021, 09:09:33 AM
Except maybe not
https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/truth-about-polar-bears
Quote
The current scientific consensus places the worldwide polar bear population between 20,000 and 25,000 animals. Prior to the 1973 worldwide restriction on commerical polar bear hunting, that number was dramatically lower, so low that a meeting of polar bear specialists in 1965 concluded that extinction was a real possibility. Some reports even estimated the number of bears as low as 5,000 worldwide. Yet by 1990, Ian Stirling — at the time, the senior research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service and a professor of zoology at the University of Alberta; basically, one of the most respected polar bear scientists on the planet — felt comfortable answering the question as to whether polar bears are an endangered species by stating flatly: “They are not.” He went on to say that “the world population of polar bears is certainly greater than 20,000 and could be as high as 40,000 … I am inclined toward the upper end of that range.” Although old studies are sketchy, clearly more polar bears are alive today than there were 50 years ago, an essentially heartening fact that has not managed to pierce the public consciousness.

Nice insight about the polar bears! There's a polar bear on the cover of apocalypse never. While I didn't know that, I'm not surprised, as it seems the general perception of things is usually off if not backwards!



I mean . . . you could cherry pick something someone says that supports your viewpoint and drop the rest of the article.  But that would be kinda dishonest.  Maybe you should post some of the other quotes from the article, where it explains that polar bear management is more complicated than a single number of one population of bears - and that part of the problem with polar bear study is that there wasn't any good way of monitoring numbers from 50 years ago.  We don't know what populations were . . . just have some rough estimates and guesses.  What we do see in the living bear population doesn't seem good.  Fewer young, lower body weights.  The populations that have grown are linked to laws that prevent bear hunting or hunting of common foods that the bears eat.

"...a closer look reveals that everything may not be quite so sunny. “Some populations appear to be doing OK now, but what’s frightening is what might happen in the very near future,” says wildlife biologist Lily Peacock, who has worked with polar bears for the Government of Nunavut and the U.S. Geological Survey. “All indications are that the future does not look bright.” While population trends might appear stable, she says, “we’re picking up declines in body condition that are really frightening.” Scientists have shown a direct correlation between warm years and skinny bears. Even more distressing, one study predicted that 40 to 73 percent of pregnant females could fail to deliver healthy cubs if ice breakup happens one month earlier than in the 1990s. Polar bears are long-lived animals that reproduce slowly; counting the number of animals that are alive today might not paint an accurate picture."

"Take the population in the greater Churchill area, for example, which was analyzed in a 2012 paper entitled Western Hudson Bay Polar Bear Aerial Survey. While the Government of Nunavut, which commissioned the study, was quick to trumpet an increase in polar bear numbers — and call for higher hunting quotas — the University of Minnesota scientists who actually did the work were more judicious. The sea ice in Hudson Bay is now breaking up two to three weeks earlier than it did three decades ago. And since a bear on land is easier to spot from a helicopter than a bear on the ice, catastrophically early ice breakup may have just made the bears more visible. By that logic, a higher count could actually be evidence that the bears are doing worse.

Even more troublesome is the fact that the number of cubs observed in the western Hudson Bay population is dramatically lower than in the past. While adult bears may be fat and savvy enough to survive a few lean years, juvenile bears reach a tipping point quickly. Despite the triumphal notes sounded by the Nunavut government, the study’s authors point out that the scarcity of cubs undercuts the entire hypothesis that “increasing numbers of bears … are the result of overall subpopulation growth.”"

"In Davis Strait, for example, both the extent and thickness of the sea ice have been declining dramatically. In theory, this should be trouble for the local bears, which, like polar bears everywhere else, rely on solid sea ice as a hunting platform. Yet this population is an eye-popping 233 percent bigger than it was four decades ago. It’s tempting to simply declare victory and walk away. And yet this new-found abundance is entirely the result of local management practices that originally had nothing to do with bears. Specifically, in 1983, the European Economic Community banned the importation of the hides of whitecoat harp seal pups. In most places, the polar bear diet consists primarily of ringed or bearded seals. But polar bears aren’t picky eaters; when harp seal populations exploded, polar bears gorged. On the other hand, one theory holds that the loss of sea ice could encourage killer whales to move into polar bear habitat, snatching up all the seals and becoming the new dominant marine mammal."


Then there's the classification of polar bears by every country that has populations (https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/population/ (https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/population/)):
International: Vulnerable
Canada: Special Concern
Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
Norway: Vulnerable
Russia: Indeterminate, Rare, or Recovering, depending on population
United States: Threatened



Polar bears aren't my primary concern with climate change, but there's no need to misrepresent the situation as A-OK.

On Svalbard/Spitsbergen polar bears now stay at land in period where they would otherwise go onto ice and hunt. They are strolling over land and starving. More often than before they visit human dwellings to look for food. I have understood that polar bears to a certain degree have altered internal reproductive organs because of heavy metals and other stuff that humans have put in the sea.

The biggest problem everywhere on the planet that climate changes faster than many species (animals, plants, fungi) can adapt to it. Species are migrating/invading to newly warmer areas and threatening the established colder species.

Someone above mentioned that wildernis can't be disappearing that fast. But it is. Only a small fraction of growable land is still wildernis. And the total of wild mammals on this planet is only a percent or 2 of all lifestock mammals. There might still be a lot of wildernis left in Canada, Russia and such places, but the amazonas is rapidly burnt down. And elsewhere (like in Norway) there are more and more roads built, electric wires placed, windmills bult, lakes dammed. In the USA, mountain tops removal. Even if there is still some green area around it, it is often close to human invention and with that less inhabitable for wild animals. Even seemingly beautiful nature areas can have a past of polluting with lakes full of mining heavy metals.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 08, 2021, 02:43:25 PM
The easiest way to reduce our impact is to have fewer children. This is something I'm doing. If others aren't willing to do it, or legislate caps on having children, then that is their problem.

This reasoning doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

50 dirt poor kids in a third world country are going to use fewer resources over their lives than one average middle income dude in North America.  Children aren't the problem.  Living a middle class (or better) lifestyle is.  By putting the blame on kids, it relieves one of having to scrutinize the systemic problems with the way we rich people live.

The birth rate in Canada has been below replacement for a while now.  If kids were the issue, we would see improvement in pollution and environmental damage each year . . . instead we see the opposite.  Legislating caps on the number of children clearly has no chance of working.

So if it's middle income people that are the problem then stop them having children. I didn't say anything about dirt poor people needing to stop having children (though I suspect it would be better for them to stop as well).

Don't tell me that I as a rich person with no children - and with less consumption [spending] than the average household - consume or use more resources than a middle class person with three (or two, or even one) child. That doesn't add up.

The real issue here in rich countries is that we're still having too many kids - even if marginally below replacement rate. If we all had one kid each and we let our population stagnate the world would be much better off. Till middle class families are okay with that, they can bear the blame for resource consumption. A middle class family that has 2-3 children each of whom has 2-3 children will have a much greater lifetime carbon footprint than a rich couple with 1 kid.

Canada has been below replacement for years.  If your theory is correct . . . why is our pollution output increasing with fewer children, rather than decreasing?

With fewer children our economy requires immigration to continue growth . . . so it's not like there are going to be fewer people in a country with fewer children.  There will just be more immigrants.  Unless your goal is to tank the economy.  If so, you're probably doing the right thing for the environment (less production and economic contraction is almost always great for the environment!) but will have a really tough sell.

But it's not just middle income people who are the problem . . . it's money.  The richer people are, the bigger their carbon footprint typically.  That's why the average carbon footprint of someone living in Beverly Hills is about five times what someone living in South Central LA is (https://apnews.com/article/be099434a414a0cb647640ce45f8e6fc (https://apnews.com/article/be099434a414a0cb647640ce45f8e6fc)).  Might be worth just taxing the rich and middle class until they're poor . . . then they can't afford to keep polluting.

By world population there's just no comparison at all.  Us rich people are the problem because of our consumption.  Consumption that is driven by wealth.
(https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/1iv0F4l_n3SAGD-yBFLJKr6b2XQ=/0x0:1514x1106/920x0/filters:focal(0x0:1514x1106):format(webp):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9787801/oxfam_extreme_carbon_inequality_021215.jpg)

@mozar suggested that I read Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth and although the book is on hold right now (I requested it on Libby / 6-week wait time) I read the free sample, which covers the first couple of chapters. 

Raworth is an Oxford economist who addresses this very question and who proposes a different model for thinking about economics that might enable us to solve some of these pressing issues.

You are both right in the sense that wealthier people consume more resources and that also as the rate of reproduction drops that immigration must, by necessity, rise in order to fill the void -- unless a nation is willing to suffer falling growth and economic collapse.  This is because the success of our economies for the past 100+ years has been measured based on one metric alone: growth, as determined by GDP.

The problem with simply choosing to not have children without also addressing challenges like poverty and income inequality is that, in a world where we measure success in our economies by growth and growth alone, you will not ever solve the overpopulation problem because there will always be people in desperate, poor parts of the world who will be having large numbers of children.

In other words, as GuitarStv says...you might decide to not have a child, but under our current system that will not mean that there will not be *a* child living in your country, consuming resources and therefore warming the climate -- it just won't be your child.

The reason that Raworth's model makes a lot of sense is that she encourages us to drop the idea of measuring success based on growth completely and to instead measure success based on how good a job we are doing when it comes to ensuring that everyone on the planet (human, animal, plant -- every living being) has access to a basic set of critical needs -- that they are above the Social Foundation -- and that we, as humans, are not consuming at such a high level that we are destroying the planet -- i.e. not overshooting our Ecological Ceiling. 

Achieving this through Doughnut Economics would not come through forcing certain numbers of people to live in poverty, but rather through intentionally designing our economies in such a way that we can all live within the green zone so that we are able to thrive with nature and to not destroy our planet. 

Although this task might feel daunting (or even impossible) I also know that one thing the MMM community does particularly well is to come up with unique solutions to complicated problems that others might consider to be impossible. 

At one point when I first posted this, ChpBstrd mentioned the idea of using our most powerful levers to effect change -- I might add to the list that education is a hugely powerful lever.  Learning about what is causing the problems.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 08, 2021, 02:52:55 PM
I should also re-emphasize an idea that I mentioned before that dovetails with Raworth's ideas: Attenborough argues in his film that it will be critical for us to reach our peak population on earth as quickly as we can.  While it may be the case that people in developing nations do not have as large an environmental impact, it is also the case that those populations are all moving rapidly toward lifestyles that involve much higher levels of consumption.

A better way to look at things might be to look at things more holistically: not in terms of which nations to target, or which groups of people are the biggest problem, and so on, but rather...how can we make things sustainable for everyone, because we all have to live here, and we will need to find a balance in which everyone on the planet can live in a safe, comfortable, harmonious environment.

With that in mind, it is in all of our interest to invest effort into helping people who need help to access education, housing, drinking water, political stability, etc. to get those things ASAP, because the longer they go *without* those things, the faster the population will grow, and regardless of whether or not we provide support, everyone eventually reaches a level of prosperity at which it becomes possible to consume more resources.

It is a matter of figuring out whether it would be best to be working on how to accommodate 10 billion people within the doughnut or 12 billion or 20 billion etc. The more rapidly we can have the population peak, the smaller that number would be. 

One of the most high impact ways to reduce that number is by educating children, and especially girls, in the developing world.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 08, 2021, 07:06:54 PM
@uneven_cyclist
You might want to look into Deep Adaptation, a movement that wants to prepare in the best way for the inevitable climate changes. You can find a community on fb.

For green investments, you could consider buying/creating rentals that are energy-modern, with solar panels and not car dependent. Or even buy a large house on a farm and get people like you to live there with you, driving it together as a coop. I recently saw an add for for an extra tennant such a house in Oslo. It was not on a farm, but they had a large garden to grow food. But the idea is that you with your investments buy the green place to live and your renters pay you your profit, while living in a green way.

You can also run for politics in your community and join a green party (or the greenest).

I have my money in a (Norwegian) index fund that is called "more societal responsibility". It has the same low price as the world wide index fund, but doesn't buy the worst weapons and polluters. I think they created the fund because there was a strong demand for people to invest in something more responsible. You should all ask vanguard to also offer such a fund, maybe if enough people donit will help.

I think there is one thing Mustachians often do that contributes a lot to our CO2 ommissions and that is travel hacking. Travel by air has a really big environmental impact. Even MMM himself used to have his yearly meetings in farawayistan. We should at least try not to become frequent flyers, but rather practice other forms for (slow) travel.

Thanks Linea,

These are great ideas.  Right now I am searching for ideas about how I can get involved / make my largest impact, so these ideas are really helpful. 

I'm right there with you on Travel Hacking / Credit Card Churning.  Although I am doing it a bit myself (have not yet traveled, just accumulating miles) I have had a bit of an uneasy feeling about all of it and recently read a NYT article about The Points Guy that another Mustachian posted elsewhere in the forum, and it was unsettling. 

The author of the article revealed the mechanics of airline miles and credit card bonuses.  Here is a link to the story for anyone who is interested:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/05/magazine/points-guy-travel-rewards.html

Quoting my own reply from that post:

Just read this.  So...the airlines sell miles to the banks because this is a way to generate reliable/predictable revenue...the banks, in turn, use the miles to create co-branded cards to attract customers who aspire to travel...then the banks earn revenue on the cards through interchange fees which are charged to merchants on every single transaction (this is the bulk of their revenue, not interest) while the customers get to (have to?) travel on jets and have an elite experience.

In other countries, interchange fees are capped and there are not points/miles/bonuses etc.

This all makes me wonder how much jet fuel has been dumped into the atmosphere just to maintain fee revenue for the banks...a revenue stream largely financed by people who don't actually have credit cards in the first place or even know anything about airline miles or bonuses, but are just making cash purchases and scraping by day-to-day.

As the author writes at the end of the story, "The poor underwrite the fantasies of the middle class, who in turn underwrite the realities of the rich."

Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 08, 2021, 08:16:20 PM
It is not lost on me that this forum / MMM in general is financed primarily by profits generated when people sign up for these credit cards (there's an ad at the bottom of the page that says "Bigass Credit Card Rewards are BACK")...but at the same time I doubt that there are many here who, if armed with understanding about what's going on, and if given the chance, would not shut down the whole racket.

High interchange fees are a uniquely American thing and they are bad for three reasons:
1) People in the lowest income brackets suffer most because they pay higher prices across the entire economy without any reimbursement through credit card rewards.
2) Income inequality becomes worse because bankers grow rich from the fees.
3) The environment is literally being consumed because high interchange fees are what enable banks to lure consumers into signing up for elite credit cards by offering airline travel or cashback bonuses.

As Mustachians, we have the ability to come out somewhere in the middle of the pile of course, by travel hacking and earning lots of cc bonuses...

Travel hacking is all probably just a blip on the radar of the big banks, and any money that they might be losing they can easily recover by boosting interchange fees marginally the following year and passing the bill to those who can least afford to pay it and who have the least amount of power to do anything about it.

I am not in a position to change any of this unfortunately, but it felt important to share with folks in case there might be anyone reading who *is* in a position of influence out there.



Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Riccardo on February 08, 2021, 08:59:18 PM
Quote
In the way that MMM and others illuminated the path on a personal level to take folks from a life of debt to a life of early retirement, we now need their help to chart a similar course on a societal level in order to halt the decline of the natural world (stop racking up debt) and then begin to repair the damage (invest in VTSAX) -- speaking in metaphor, I'm not saying that we need to literally stop racking up debt and invest in VTSAX in order to repair the world, but that we need help from visionaries like MMM to identify the equivalent actions that must be taken on a societal level in order to get out of the crisis.

I haven't read this whole thread yet, but IMHO MMM has always been an environmentalist using wealth as the lure to get on board with his ideas. He promotes bikes, limited fertility, reduced consumption, local travel... Perhaps with the stock market booming ever more people are missing this angle of his message. To me it has always been clear that his message of driving less, biking more, consuming less, saving more, eating home cooked food instead of preservative-laden packaged meals, etc. made us rich, happy & healthy -- and was intended to solve the environmental troubles described in this thread. Being resigned to failure is something I've read on this forum again and again over the years.

One thing our family does is turn off the circuit breaker using OhmConnect. We get paid to save e- during peak hours! Yet when I share this with others, they think it sounds nuts. They'd rather complain than play a boardgames by candlelight for an hour.

The solutions are there. Agree corporations have pushed the individual responsibility angle. But this pandemic has brought us measurably closer to mitigating human impact by more remote work, something closer to UBI, a vast wave of interest in biking and bike infrastructure, and a massive reduction in international jet travel.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 09, 2021, 01:02:57 AM
Quote
In short: I want to step up, but I also sense that this is a situation where it would be very easy to take a step (or many steps) in the wrong direction, and I am hoping to avoid that.

I think your being too hard for yourself. It's about putting one foot in front of another. If you feel like your going in the wrong direction, change directions. If you're feeling overwhelmed try volunteering for a conservancy non profit. The path doesn't appear until you start the journey.
You are both correct. Thankfully lots of people are thinking a lot about this so you don't have to solve everything yourself!

Check out https://80000hours.org/ (https://80000hours.org/)

I think there will be a lot in there about how you can help, given your particular skills. That community has a lot to say, from high level career-long things down to what can you do today. They acknowledge and have some numbers around the idea that for some people, the most effective thing they can do is maximize their earnings and donate. I haven't put too much scrutiny to this site because my chosen career path is already pretty much in line with their thinking. It's more along the lines of career and $ than permaculture type things, which are also great but a little less on topic.

I will admit I haven't read much myself about investing's impact. I guess I just assumed that, say, 12 years working for the man plus investing 1 million dollars was < actively working to solve the problem the rest of the time or at least as good as I could do. Maybe not though, more reading for me as well.

They do say this, but I think MMMers can do better than their audience.
Quote
We’re unsure in general how much people should be investing vs. spending now on the most pressing causes.

It is intriguing though. Might a paycheck to paycheck frugal lifestyle, working in a job doing good for humanity, with maybe a 250k buffer be better for the planet than FIRE? No idea =).

The closest I've found on that site is this, which basically boils down to "don't donate all your money" to me.
https://80000hours.org/2015/11/why-everyone-even-our-readers-should-save-enough-to-live-for-6-24-months/ (https://80000hours.org/2015/11/why-everyone-even-our-readers-should-save-enough-to-live-for-6-24-months/)

It is worth noting that, according to their analysis, climate change is in the second tier of ways for any otherwise generic person to make a difference.

Thanks!  Checking out the website and the podcast now. 
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 09, 2021, 02:01:52 AM
Quote
In the way that MMM and others illuminated the path on a personal level to take folks from a life of debt to a life of early retirement, we now need their help to chart a similar course on a societal level in order to halt the decline of the natural world (stop racking up debt) and then begin to repair the damage (invest in VTSAX) -- speaking in metaphor, I'm not saying that we need to literally stop racking up debt and invest in VTSAX in order to repair the world, but that we need help from visionaries like MMM to identify the equivalent actions that must be taken on a societal level in order to get out of the crisis.

I haven't read this whole thread yet, but IMHO MMM has always been an environmentalist using wealth as the lure to get on board with his ideas. He promotes bikes, limited fertility, reduced consumption, local travel... Perhaps with the stock market booming ever more people are missing this angle of his message. To me it has always been clear that his message of driving less, biking more, consuming less, saving more, eating home cooked food instead of preservative-laden packaged meals, etc. made us rich, happy & healthy -- and was intended to solve the environmental troubles described in this thread. Being resigned to failure is something I've read on this forum again and again over the years.

One thing our family does is turn off the circuit breaker using OhmConnect. We get paid to save e- during peak hours! Yet when I share this with others, they think it sounds nuts. They'd rather complain than play a boardgames by candlelight for an hour.

The solutions are there. Agree corporations have pushed the individual responsibility angle. But this pandemic has brought us measurably closer to mitigating human impact by more remote work, something closer to UBI, a vast wave of interest in biking and bike infrastructure, and a massive reduction in international jet travel.


No doubt about it.  MMM is a visionary in every sense: he described a revolutionary way of life based on environmental and financial ideas and values that allowed many of us to dramatically reduce our consumption levels and environmental impact and to build significant wealth.

I made my post because I saw a film recently that made me feel a sense of deep concern about the rapid loss of wilderness around the world, David Attenborough's "A Life on Our Planet." I felt an urgent need to align myself with the mission of the film while also holding true to the concepts I learned about through MMM, so I turned to the forum for advice and ideas.  The problems that exist are large in scale / scope, certainly, and I recognize that my role would not be on a major scale, but it is important to me to find ways to participate. 

Right now, that means learning about and understanding my role in contributing to the crisis -- what effect am I having on the destruction of wilderness?
How do I fit in, and how does the MMM community fit in?  Is Mustachianism sustainable from an ecological perspective?  A humanitarian perspective?  If not, will it become so over time? It is impossible to chart my course without first understanding my position. 

In the past few days I have learned a tremendous amount.  The idea of Doughnut Economics, which argues that we move away from economies based purely on growth and toward distributive economies based on ensuring that nobody falls below the Social Foundation and that we do not overshoot our Ecological Ceiling...the 80,000 hour project, which is a website and podcast that helps people align their career work with the world's most pressing challenges...The OhmConnect!  Even without the power saving benefits, just the idea of playing board games and having candlelight sounds really nice.

Thanks for your post and keep up the good work with lowering consumption, eating healthy, cycling, and otherwise moving things in the right direction. 
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Riccardo on February 09, 2021, 12:23:48 PM
Check out a long thread (or threads) on the topic from a few years ago with @JoshuaSpodek -- I learned so much from him, things I had never thought about relating to the "experience-based economy" which just moves the consumption from things to travel (while not really reducing the things angle, sadly).

I also suspect fertility is going to fall drastically in the very short term in the US. I believe that not having kids is a biologically driven "choice" that people are "making". In other words, only those truly biologically driven to reproduce will do so, while those who in the past would have done so either accidentally or due to social pressure will be off the hook.

Automation is going to radically change our world and make UBI possible (note I am not a UBI fan/shill, just seems to me that the pandemic has proven that it will happen).  For those who doubt the power of automation, we need only to look at agriculture, perhaps the most automated industry in America, which feeds (excessively) while using a tiny human labor force. I saw a quote that 200 years ago (not gonna get this right) 80% of people were farmers, then it dropped to 10% of people were farmers, and now something like 3% of people are farmers.

I try not to think about biodiversity extinctions (insects, plants, animals) because it makes me very sad. Trying to do my part in my garden. Wish we could ban Roundup.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: MustacheAndaHalf on February 09, 2021, 01:06:25 PM
It would help to prioritize actions, and I think investing is low on that list.  Stocks are unaware that you didn't buy them - and certainly not why you didn't buy them.  The price of stocks are determined by active trading, not from buy and hold index investors.  Select ESG, but don't get distracted by investing as a way to have an impact.

Does your representative in Congress know your feelings?  That's how focusing on stocks, with no impact, can detract from doing something that can have an impact.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: uneven_cyclist on February 09, 2021, 01:38:24 PM
Check out a long thread (or threads) on the topic from a few years ago with @JoshuaSpodek -- I learned so much from him, things I had never thought about relating to the "experience-based economy" which just moves the consumption from things to travel (while not really reducing the things angle, sadly).

I also suspect fertility is going to fall drastically in the very short term in the US. I believe that not having kids is a biologically driven "choice" that people are "making". In other words, only those truly biologically driven to reproduce will do so, while those who in the past would have done so either accidentally or due to social pressure will be off the hook.

Automation is going to radically change our world and make UBI possible (note I am not a UBI fan/shill, just seems to me that the pandemic has proven that it will happen).  For those who doubt the power of automation, we need only to look at agriculture, perhaps the most automated industry in America, which feeds (excessively) while using a tiny human labor force. I saw a quote that 200 years ago (not gonna get this right) 80% of people were farmers, then it dropped to 10% of people were farmers, and now something like 3% of people are farmers.

I try not to think about biodiversity extinctions (insects, plants, animals) because it makes me very sad. Trying to do my part in my garden. Wish we could ban Roundup.

This makes a lot of sense...and while we can all feel good (justifiably good) about reducing our consumption on daily expenses, eating healthier, and riding bikes, there are chinks in the armor of Mustachianism.

Something that I think is really important to be aware of is the idea of loopholes, hacking, tricks, etc. that save us money...especially anything involving taxes and banks.  Because when we are doing things like travel hacking, which enable us to have amazing experiences all over the globe, it is important to keep in mind that people with lower incomes than our own financing our journeys and just because we are not paying for it, that does not mean that the jet fuel is not being consumed, the airplanes are not being built, the food isn't being eaten, the hotels built, etc. etc.  While these journeys may be free or very cheap for us, it would be a tough sell to convince me that they are not contributing to income disparities or that they are not contributing to the destruction of the environment. 

@MustacheAndaHalf re: contacting my congress person...I was talking to my sister about all of this yesterday and she also suggested that it would be a good idea to reach out to my congress person for ideas.

I understand what you are saying about retail investing where if I don't own the stock then someone else would just own it at the same price, and so in that sense my actions as a buy-and-hold investor do not have too much influence.

I still have a lot to learn.  I do have the sense after reading further up in the thread that institutional investors (corporations, university endowments, etc.) have the ability to affect change in a much more meaningful way. 

But as individuals, we do have the ability to shape the conversation.  Still figuring it out and learning, thank you all for your thoughts and ideas.  And yes, it is absolutely important to prioritize actions.

Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: simonsez on February 09, 2021, 01:43:02 PM
I believe that not having kids is a biologically driven "choice" that people are "making". In other words, only those truly biologically driven to reproduce will do so, while those who in the past would have done so either accidentally or due to social pressure will be off the hook.
Can you expand on this?  I'm having a hard time envisioning someone driven purely by biological factors to create offspring with no impact by social pressure.  I.e. if someone grew up isolated with no connection to other humans, do you really think there would be some innate urge to make more humans and they would lament this inability (aside from general loneliness)?  Or if two sterile people that were attracted to each other and regularly had sexual gratification - would they have the concept of offspring and that something is missing or would they be satisfied?  I would think every birth has some element of social pressure baked in.

Perhaps I'm being too broad with how I'm thinking of social pressure.  I would consider anything that a person in isolation wouldn't come up with on their own to be social pressure.  A spouse saying they're open to the idea of having children or an advertisement showing a positive bond between parent(s) and a child or even a tax break for having children would be social pressure.  If we're just talking libido, sure I would buy that a good deal of that is natural and would occur without any social pressure. 
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: joe189man on February 10, 2021, 09:25:34 AM
IMO the easiest thing you can do is do a carbon footprint calculator to see where your household is generating the most carbon and look for low hanging fruit, flying is extremely carbon intensive, so is driving a low mpg or older car a lot of miles. live close to work and ride your bike

maybe if your utility is coal dominate solar makes sense

then vote with your dollars, do research to find companies or ETFs that promote whats important to you

a thing i would like to do is buy some land (many acres) and put it in a conservation easement to prevent future development and work to restore or enhance the available habitat

a moon shot might be space mining - getting critical resources from off planet ( https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/asteroids-comets-and-meteors/asteroids/16-psyche/in-depth/ ) and even manufacturing/processing in space would tremendously benefit the planet

if we want to go all solar and wind we still need solar panels, metal and battery components which requires mining - might as well get them from an asteroid
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Riccardo on February 10, 2021, 09:56:37 AM
Quote
a thing i would like to do is buy some land (many acres) and put it in a conservation easement to prevent future development and work to restore or enhance the available habitat

I have thought about this too! Cool idea!

WRT to population decline, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_decline (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_decline):

"... after 1968 the global population growth rate started a long decline and today (the period 2015–2020) is estimated to be about 1.1%,[2] half of its peak in 1968. Although still growing, global population is predicted to level out around the end of the 21st century,[8] and some sources predict the start of a decline before then.[1][9]  The principle cause of this phenomenon is the abrupt decline in the global total fertility rate, from 5.0 in 1960 to 2.5 in 2016. The decline in the total fertility rate has occurred in every region of the world and has brought renewed concern for population decline.[1]

The era of rapid global population increase, and concomitant concern about a population explosion, has been a relative short one compared with the span of human history. It began roughly at the beginning of the industrial revolution and appears to be now drawing to a close in the Western world.[1]"

It's pretty stunning to see what is happening in Japan. But in terms of what I was talking about, it's just a theory I have and can't currently find evidence for (though I believe I did find some on Twitter). In my lifetime I have seen a drastic change in how people talk about having children. I am 50, I always wanted children, and we had them fairly young. Today, I frequently hear people talking about plans to never have children. I think it's great that this is something people can openly say now. What I am suggesting is that fertility is dropping for myriad *biological* reasons (low testosterone, "affluenza" resulting in no survivability advantage to reproduction, population pressure/crowding) in addition to the sociological reasons such as female education, contraception, late/no marriage, etc. My husband, who like me always wanted children, has an additional theory that entertainment/screen addiction is reducing the desire to reproduce.

Anyway, a lot of my theories have to do with the fact that humans are animals, and the biological population dynamics we see in other animal populations apply to us as well.
Title: Re: Unpopular Opinion: Are We Part of The Problem?
Post by: Riccardo on February 10, 2021, 10:03:03 AM
One theory about life is that it is the ideal method of distributing the entropy originated with the Big Bang. If human civilization has achieved a new "self-velocity" of entropy (similar to compound interest), reproduction may no longer be the primary method for distributing entropy.

(Dunno if this works with my other theory 😂)