Tag Archives: climate change

Friday Linkage 7/6/2018

I absolutely love the discussion about civility in national politics right now.  I love how people like Donald Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or anyone else associated with the right wing can claim to hold any shred of credibility with regard to being civil when these are the same people who have given us the likes of Steve King, Louie Gohmert, and others.  Heck, they gave us Donald Trump who is literally the most vulgar person to hold the office of President of the United States in the history of the country.  Come at me with a different person, please.

We have truly entered the straight up Orwellian dystopia phase of the current political cycle.  Up is down, black is white, and Trump is right.  If you are not with the dear leader, regardless of where his policy position is that day, you are against the dear leader even if you have done nothing but maintain long held beliefs.  Just wait until they start burning books that do not have more space dedicated to pictures than words.

On to the links…

Scott Pruitt Asked Aides To Find His Wife A $200,000 Job—Scott Pruitt may be the most corrupt person in Washington D.C. since the administration of Warren G. Harding.

It’s Time for the Republican Congress to Impeach the EPA’s Scott Pruitt—This is not the opinion of a liberal mouthpiece.  It is coming from a business publication.  Here is the thing I wonder about.  When the administration changes how will Republicans react to the smallest of infractions by a Democratic administration?  What sort of faux outrage will people like Chuck Grassley manufacture after spending the prior four years closing their eyes, plugging their ears, and screaming “La, la, la!” while Trump and his cronies looted America?

This is how People Tried to Teach Scott Pruitt about Climate Science—Remember, this is the man in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.  You can’t teach Scott Pruitt because Scott Pruitt is bought and paid for by the oil and gas lobby.

Path to Zero Emissions Starts Out Easy, but Gets Steep—Does anyone really doubt that this is true?  However, we will not get to the innovation part unless we start on the easy stuff first.  If history is any guide to the future, however, advances in energy production will come along that moderate the steepness of the deployment curve.

Coal Power Plants Retiring Quickly During Trump Administration—It looks like we are already trying to get coal out of the picture.  Despite Trump’s best efforts—which have probably slowed down retirements but not stopped the trend—coal is not the way we will generate electricity in the future.  Maybe he really should try and bring back Blockbuster?  Or ToyRUs?

Solar Power Employs Twice As Many As Coal In US—For every coal mining job Trump claims he is trying to save, which is really code for him just trying to save coal barons’ paychecks at the expense of everyone else on the planet, he is endangering more solar jobs on the other side of the ledger.  This is a losing hand that he is playing to the bitter end.  Good luck with that Donny two scoops.

Electric Vehicles Alone Could Cause Peak Oil Demand within Decade—Peak oil used to be about Hubbert’s Peak and the decline of production based on economically producible reserves, but maybe the worm has turned and we will just demand to use less oil.  I like to think that I am contributing ever so slightly by biking into work several days a week.  Demand destruction is real.

Climate Change is Making it Harder to Revive Damaged Land—Just add this to the list of things that climate change is going to make harder for future generations.

Call to Turn Oil Rigs into Nature Reserves—Why don’t we just take every offshore rig at the end of its life and turn it into a combination artificial reef and offshore wind turbine?

UK Renewable Electricity Generation Tops 30%, Scotland Increases By 11%—The U.K. generated over 30% of its electricity in the third quarter via renewables.  Not for a day or a month, but an entire quarter.  In the same report it was noted that for the entirety of 2017 Scotland generated almost 70% of its electricity from renewable sources.  The future is now folks.

Battery-Backed Solar Power to Undercut Coal in China by 2028—So, once China figures out how to cut the price of solar with storage what is the market for energy going to look like?

Solar Power Fuels Savings, Consumer Loyalty and Competition Among Craft Brewers—You mean to tell me that people like it when their favorite beer makers also believe that the world is a better place with more solar power?  I would have never thought such a thing were possible.

The Dirty Little Secret Behind “Clean Energy” Wood Pellets—Do any biomass energy schemes ever work out as intended?  It always seems like the promise is predicated on a bunch of ifs.  If the forest is replanted or if the forest is not clear cut and so on.

The US has a 1.39 billion-pound surplus of cheese. Let’s try to visualize that.—I am stuck here thinking about what a 1.39 billion pound round of cheese would be like sitting on the mall in Washington D.C.:

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Friday Linkage 6/29/2018

If anyone does not believe that elections matter, consider that Donald Trump—a man wholly unfit to be president who lost an election by over three million votes—will get to choose the second Supreme Court justice of his presidency.  By the end of four years of this man the United States may no longer be a country that I recognize.

On to the links…

The Dangers of Distracted Parenting—The world would be better is everyone were just a little more present in the “real.”  I cannot count how many times I have been in a bar or restaurant and seen entire tables of people staring into their phones’ screens.  It is insanity.

She Spoke out About Climate Change—and They Tried to Make Her Pay for It—Sarah Myhre is right.  Science has always been political.  There is a reason why religious authorities persecuted scientists.  Empirical observations served to undermine the authority of the religious entity because their authority was based on a flawed text interpreted over the course of generations. Nothing has really changed.

News of Scott Pruitt’s ‘quid pro quo’ Condo Deal Raises Questions about Criminal Law Violations—Does anyone actually think that Scott Pruitt or any other member of the Trump administration would actually be prosecuted for doing something criminal?  This is the most ethically and criminally compromised presidency in American history and the Republican party is allowing it to run amok with no oversight.  Do you remember when the process in which Hillary Clinton handled her emails was considered the height of impropriety?

Scott Pruitt Was So Sloppy Telling Oil Execs and Cronies He Could Get Them Hired, It’s Embarrassing—This fucking guy:

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Scott Pruitt’s “Tactical Pants” Scandal, Very Briefly Explained—It’s not nearly as much fun as his lotion runs or his attempts to buy a used mattress or his attempts to weasel a chicken franchise for his wife or…well, it is Scott Pruitt and every week brings a new scandal.

How Trump is Letting Polluters Off the Hook, in One Chart—When the EPA is run by an industry toadie more interested in finding his special lotion to keep his skin soft while he lounges in his used bed this is the result:

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Ethically compromised is one thing, but being just downright pathetic at your job is turning out to be a Trumpian trait du jour.

The Argument for Fracking as a Climate Solution Just Went Down in Flames—Methane is a bad climate actor and mismanaged wells are releasing a lot of methane.  Sorry folks, but fracked natural gas is not the bridge fuel to the future.  It’s just another fossil fuel bait and switch.

Investigators say China is Behind Illegal CFC Emissions—Maybe Donny two scoops will add this to his list of grievances with China or he will just use it as a another lever to extract payoffs from the Chinese for a project somewhere in the world.

UPS Places Order For 950 Workhorse N-GEN Electric Delivery Vans—Before we spend a lot of time and energy electrifying personal automobiles, the government should focus its efforts on converting the fleets of commercial vehicles to electric.  These are large buyers of vehicles, so one sales pitch can lead to a lot of sales, that are very sensitive to fuel cost fluctuation.

Will the Boomers Leave Us Bust?—Let me skip to the punch line: if baby boomers have to give an inch to save future generations they will fight tooth and nail to preserve that inch because they are the most self-centered generation in American history.  As the, hopefully, last baby boomer president wreaks havoc on the national and international order it is starting to look like a multi-decade fixer upper job for those of use left.

Goats Used For Colorado Wildfire Mitigation—The world just might be a better place if we spent more time thinking about goats.  Everyone else can worry about Trump today.  I am going to spend my day thinking about goats.

Friday Linkage 6/22/2018

This is the future of coal in the United States:

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Now, we need to figure out how to get India and China off that crack.

On to the links…

Solar Just Hit a Record Low Price In the U.S.—Remember, once the solar plant is built the fuel is free.  If costs for natural gas go through the roof like they have in the past this solar system will be chugging along producing power for the same cost.  At least I started off with some good news.

World on Track for 50% Renewables by 2050—Not every headline was ugly this week.  We can all hope that this projection is true or, given the nature of past projections about renewable energy, somewhat conservative:

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Solar Is the Future. Donald Trump Tied a Bow on It and Gave It to China.—Thank Donny two scoops.   It is my belief that the dynamic market in the United States still has the potential to be the innovation leader over China in this space because China is operating from a command economy model that tends to reward inefficient legacy players.  We can hope.

For Pruitt Aides, the Boss’s Personal Life Was Part of the Job—When the final accounting is done on the Trump Administration the level of grift and corruption is going to astound historians for decades.  That is if our democracy survives another couple of years of this shit storm.

Pruitt Faces Revolt in Trump Country—Not being obsequious to the ethanol industry might even get Scott Pruitt a tongue lashing from Iowa’s crankiest codger Chuck Grassley.  It would be funny and ironic if this was the battlefield that Scott Pruitt’s EPA career ended upon.

Even Scott Pruitt’s Friends Have Given Up on Him—Granted, a more pressing political crisis has been crowding out all other news right now but the chorus calling for Scott Pruitt’s ouster is getting louder.  It should be easy to slide him out of town on his lotion covered rear end.

Trump’s EPA Greenlighted a Pesticide That Harms Kids’ Brains. Hawaii Just Said, “Hell No.”—It is like there is a sign over the White House that reads, “Big Business, whatever you want we will do it.  MAGA!”  Seriously, is there any thought behind any decision other than money?

Abandoned Gas Wells Aren’t Adequately Managed—Is anyone actually surprised that oil and gas companies do not do a good job of managing wells once production has ceased?  What are the actual repercussions or damages that these companies face for doing a crap job?

Americans Spend 7% Of Income On Gasoline—It’s summer, so it is summer driving season.  Seven percent seems like a lot.  If only there was a way to get around without using gasoline?

What if Canada had Spent $200bn on Wind Energy Instead of Oil?—I do not like to spend a lot of time on “what ifs” but I found this compelling.

Concrete is the Stuff Civilization is Made Of. But for all its Blessings, There are Huge Environmental Costs—Do we ever sit down and think about the environmental and capital costs of covering everything in concrete?  The material is ubiquitous and I doubt anyone ever really thinks about it much more than that.

This Technology Could Fundamentally Change our Relationship to Electricity—The problem is that utilities are generally not rewarded for efficiency as a “cost plus” type business model.  Now if the government…sorry, I forgot what our government looks like right now.

Sucking Carbon Out of the Air Won’t Solve Climate Change—This is the technical wizard’s holy grail of climate change mitigation.  It is not going to alter the fundamental problem that we put too much carbon into the atmosphere, but it might be part of a near term solution set that allows us to bridge to a more sustainable future.

Most American Homes are Still Heated with Fossil Fuels. It’s Time to Electrify.—As someone who has solar panels, electric appliances including an electric dryer, and lives in a cold climate I do not know if the answer is to electrify our heating systems.  I believe that there are more cost effective ways to reduce our fossil fuel “load” that will return more greenhouse gas emission reduction.  Plus, it is hella easy to turn down your thermostat.

PR Firm Billed New Orleans Utility Almost $55,000 for Recruiting Power Plant Supporters—You have to love policies so popular that a utility is willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to bring in faux supporters.  Now, who is it that is hiring “crisis actors?”

How Can Marine Protected Areas Help Save Our Oceans?—I am sure that Trump will try and figure out a way to prevent any of this from happening as well because Obama designated a marine protected area.

Where Female Elephants Without Tusks Roam — and Poachers Stay Away—Life finds a way:

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Are Baby Boomers Evil?

This weekend I finished Bruce Cannon Gibney’s Generation of Sociopaths How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.  I hesitate to recommend the book as a “must read” because it’s point is somewhat repetitive throughout the course of the book making it seem more like a personal attack on an entire generation rather than a statistically backed takedown of an entire generation.  In fact, you could make the case that the book is both of those things at the same time depending upon where you are at in your reading.

Nevertheless, I believe that the core tenant of the book—America’s problems are, fundamentally, caused by the selfish behavior of the Baby Boomer generation—bears some consideration as we muddle through the second year of the presidency of someone who the Baby Boomers basically elected.

In essence, I believe the story can begin and end with Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency.  Donald Trump is a Baby Boomer having been born in 1946 at the beginning of the cohort born from approximately 1943 through approximately 1964.  He represents all of the worst characteristics of the generation—narcissism, aversion to authority other than that derived from their own person, indifference to facts or expertise, hostile to criticism, inability to consider sacrifice, lack of empathy, and so on.  You even get some of the other characteristics like divorce, love of television, taste for fast food, and an attraction to ostentatious displays of affluence.  It is as if the Baby Boomers decided to create a 151 proof version of all of their bad traits and put that person in the White House.

Baby Boomers are even to blame for this man’s election.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the voting statistics behind the 2016 election by demographic cohorts.  Older, white males who identified as conservative loved Donald Trump.  Basically, you Uncle Carl who likes to get lit at Thanksgiving and tell everyone at the table that America is going to hell elected the worst president in modern memory.  Knowing Baby Boomers the generational cohort will likely take no blame and pin the result on everyone but themselves.  Good lord!

But why did Baby Boomers elect Donald Trump over another member of their generation?  Do you remember the move The American President?  Toward the end of the movie President Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas, excoriates his political nemesis Bob Rumson, played by Richard Dreyfuss:

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character and you wave an old photo of the president’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life. And you go on television and you call her a whore.

If that does not sound like the playbook of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign I do not know what does.  It is like he saw the movie, the man likes his television, and said, “I got it.  I will be just like Bob Rumson!”  Add in Fox News, Twitter, and a Russian connection…you get the idea.

While we can place blame for the election of Donald Trump on a lot of different factors with baby boomer support being just one, I think the special election for Senate in Alabama was a more insightful example.  By all accounts, the Republican candidate for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions should have been elected in a cakewalk over any Democrat, unless Nick Saban decided to run for the office as a Democrat.  However, the Republican party put forth Roy Moore, Jr. as a candidate because when it’s primary season you never know what kind of crazies are going to make the ballot.  Just ask Virginia’s state GOP how that is going.

When all the voting was done Roy Moore, Jr. lost to Doug Jones in a fairly close election.  Given the outlandish nature of Roy Moore, Jr. as a politician, judge, and basic human being it should have been a disaster for the GOP.  What happened?  Makes supported Roy Moore, Jr. 56 to 42 according to exit pools.  Even more telling was that people over the age of 45 supported Roy Moore, Jr. by a large margin.  The exit polling from this race is just fascinating. You can disagree with policies all day long but when you cast your vote for a man with no regard for the law who happens to be a serial pedophile just because he is a Republican you are evil.  Thank god that African Americans, women in particular, turned out in force for Doug Jones and saved our democracy the spectacle that could have been.

Sorry baby boomers, but the evidence is starting to make me agree with Bruce Cannon Gibney and I did not want to do that.  The challenge facing us is to sweep aside this generation of leaders and put people in place who actually want to solve problems as opposed to ensuring that largesse continues to flow.

First Order Effects are Only the Beginning

Do you want to spot someone who has zero understanding of an issue?  Ask them about second order effects.

What are second order effects?  These are the impacts of an action that occur because of the aforementioned action but are not the direct intent of the aforementioned action.

What is a good example of a second order effect?  Suppose for a minute that you decide to commute to work via bicycle several days a week.  The first order effect is that you have replaced a certain amount of miles driven with a similar amount of miles ridden.  Attendant to this first order effect is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, less income directed toward fueling an automobile, increase in physical activity, and just a general sense of doing good.

A second order effect, if the number of people replacing car trips with bicycle trips reaches a critical mass, is the reduced need for infrastructure maintenance, repair, or construction.  Another second order effect, again dependent upon the number of people making the switch, is a reduced need for outlets dispensing gasoline so perhaps the number of gas stations decline.  A further second order effect is that workplaces and housing would not need to devote so much space to the transient storage of automobiles.  This would open up a more diverse array of development opportunities since less space would be covered in striped concrete. And so on down the line…

The thing with moving beyond first order effects is that it widens the potential impact of any decision.

Take organic produce as an example.  Most arguments about organic produce fall into a cost benefit analysis vis a vis its potentially greater health benefits, whether from reduced pesticide exposure on the part of the consumer or increased nutrition.  However, there are a myriad of second order effects that may impact the decision to choose organic produce.  By buying organic produce you reduce the potential for synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to pollute the ground, water, and air.  By buying organic produce you reduce the chance that farmworkers are exposed to the same synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.  All of a sudden the argument that organic produce is “just not worth it” takes on a whole new dimension.

There is an element of nuance to this approach and nuance is somewhat out of favor in a world dominated by people like Donald Trump and Fox News.  It falls into the same category as externalities, which are economic costs borne by society at large as opposed to the entity that is directly responsible for them.  Think about carbon pollution.  Coal fired power plants do not pay anything for the cost of carbon pollution yet we all bear the costs.  It’s another concept that makes most dotards heads explode.

We need to move the discussion of most issues past just the first order effects.  If we capable of enumerating all of the ways a choice can be beneficial down the line through even the most minor of second order effects the impact might be transformative.

So, the next time your Uncle Carl has one too many wine coolers at Thanksgiving dinner and wants to debate the merits of bicycle commuting, organic food, solar panels, or whatever is on his Fox News hit list spend a minute to explain first and second order effects.

Friday Linkage 5/25/2018

Free your Sundays.  As well as your Monday and Thursday nights.  Free yourself from the craven piss babies who are NFL owners and NFL “leadership” who have caved to the base elements of their fan base and Donald Trump.  Nothing says conscience of America quite like a thrice divorced, porn star spanking, man baby who likes to wrap himself in the viscera of patriotism despite his well-documented history of being physically incapable of serving in the military during the Vietnam War.

The entire issue around the anthem protests has been a dog whistle for extreme white wing.  Well compensated, majority African American males making a statement about well document injustice at the hands of police is just too much.

Well, this kowtowing to the Fox News and Alex Jones contingent of our society is too much.  I am done with the NFL.  Forever.

On to the links…

The Efficiency Myth—Along with trickle down economics I would love to forever banish the conservative edict that the private sector is always more efficient than the public sector.  It is not true.

EPA Bans CNN, AP from Covering Summit on Chemicals, ‘Forcibly’ Removes Reporter—This is what transparency and “draining the swamp” looks like under Donald Trump.  It is a government run with the singular goal of enriching the plutocrats and screwing over anyone else.

Park Service Releases Complete Climate Change Report—Climate change is real.  Human beings are the primary driver.  It is going to mess up a lot of stuff.  Despite what Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt want you to believe this is the reality.

Recreation is Redefining the Value of Western Public Lands—The value of the lands of the United States are not just measured in the amount of oil, gas, and minerals that can be extracted.  This runs counter to the narrative of clowns like Ryan Zinke, but the facts—oh those pesky facts—show a reality that people do enjoy these lands for the recreational value is available.

This Could Be A Clever Fix For The Biggest Climate Problem—Refrigeration and the energy use it requires is a big problem in any climate change mitigation scenario.  To combat climate change we need to reduce the energy needed to cool ourselves and our food.

Northeastern States Band Together, Develop a Unified EV Charge Network—Take a densely populated area, add an EV charging network that uses the same technology across the geographic area, and…BAM!…you have the recipe for increasing the adoption rate of EVs in the Northeastern United States.

A 100% Renewable Grid Isn’t Just Feasible, It’s Already Happening—At first they said that the grid could not handle 5% renewables and then it became 10%.  Every year that number has to get revised upward because the grid can handle it.

The Netherlands Announces Ban On Coal, Plans To Close 2 Power Plants By 2024—Every day there is at least some good news.

Lawns Are an Ecological Disaster—If there was one thing that I wish we would do en masse in the United States it would be to rip out the acres and acres of lawn that cover our landscape.  This is a landscape that provides little to no visual interest.  It provides little to no habitat for wildlife.  It is a suck for time, energy, and chemicals.  Most people do not actually like mowing the lawn.  Remind me again why we have lawns?

Harley-Davidson took its tax cut, closed a factory, and rewarded shareholders—This is what a $1.4 TRILLION tax cut gets you.  Harley Davidson may be in a lot of trouble as its core customers begin to age out of pretending to be bad ass biker guys.  That has not stopped the company from increasing its dividend and buying back stock.  It’s all about maximizing shareholder value and screwing over anyone who gets in the way of profiteering.

How Much Will West Coast Snowfall Decrease In The Next 80 Years?—If you love snow you are screwed:

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Friday Linkage 5/18/2018

I had contemplated making this a special “Scott Pruitt Destroys the World” edition of Friday Linkage, but thought better of it when I realized that might just depress people even more.

The question I have now that the primaries for the 2018 mid-terms are mostly done is how can Republicans defend their record?  Seriously, on what issue is the country a better place unless you are really rich?  If I am Democrat running for Congress I am hammering home that point over and over again.

On to the links…

EPA Hides Scott Pruitt’s Appearance at Mining Industry Group Meeting—I am beginning to think that Trump keeps Pruitt around because he is the only person who is in the headlines for bad stuff more than him and Trump does not care about the environment anyway.  So what is the loss?

EPA Hid Scott Pruitt’s Dinner With Climate Denier Accused Of Child Sex Abuse—How many more times are we going to have to read articles that start with “EPA hid Scott Pruitt’s…”?

Letters Reveal how Pruitt Hired an Unqualified Lobbyist to Head one of EPA’s Most Important Offices—But, what about the job creators?

Pruitt’s EPA Apparently Blocked ‘Nightmare’ Study About Water Contamination—And the hits just keep on coming.

Sulfur Dioxide Damages Lungs, and Scott Pruitt Is Letting More of It in Our Air—It does not matter how bad this schmuck behaves because he is doing the bidding of the people who are lining the Trump administration’s pockets.

Minnesota’s Top Health, Environment Officials Blast EPA Science Rule—“The proposed rule was clearly designed to undermine and disparage the important epidemiological studies that support public health protection from all pollutants, be they in the air, water, or soil.”  Well there is that.

GOP Senators Want to Exempt Giant Solar Farm Panels From Tariffs—Another genius Trump move that even the hard liners in his own party do not like for various reasons.

How to Save the Failing Nuclear Power Plants that Generate Half of America’s Clean Electricity—Natural gas is not the bridge to a clean energy future, nuclear power is the bridge.  We need to figure out a way—zero emissions credits (ZECs) just might be the ticket—to keep the existing fleet of nuclear plants in operation until rapidly deploying renewables can truly replace carbon spewing fossil fuels.

The Scientist still Fighting for the Clean Fuel the World Forgot—In an era of cheap gas—although the price is going up as I type—we have forgotten the fervor over second generation biofuels that seemed to grip the nation during the presidency of George W. Bush.  There are still some people out there trying to figure out a way to make these biofuels economical.

California will Require Solar Panels on all New Homes. That’s not Necessarily a Good Thing.—It might be better to take a more integrated approach to deploying renewables, but I do not want to argue with more solar.

California is Turning Farms into Carbon-Sucking Factories—The soil might be able to save us.

A Revolution in Hydropower makes Waves in Rural Colorado—What is great about this concept is that it is using existing manmade infrastructure to generate clean power.  No one is damning rivers or streams.

Ground Zero of Amphibian ‘Apocalypse’ Finally Found—Amphibians have been dying at spectacular rates for decades now and a source of this massacre may finally have been found.

This is the Worst Way to Become Vegetarian—This is the first time I have heard anything about the Lone Star tick or the possibility that it spreads an allergy to certain types of meat.  Is this the harbinger of our climate change dystopia?

Democracy Dies in Materialism and the U.S. is at Risk—I do not agree with everything that the author of this opinion piece said, but I do agree with the general premise that our society’s current focus on material wealth as a marker of success or fulfillment is dangerous.

Your Stoke Won’t Save Us—What if we are part of the problem and not part of the solution?