Tag Archives: pollution

Friday Linkage 5/10/2019

Steve King, the vile racist from northwest Iowa who inexplicably gets elected every two years to the House of Representatives despite achieving nothing for his time in Congress, is the fucking worst.  As Davenport, a city in Iowa that sits along the Mississippi River as part of the Quad Cities, was dealing with flooding downtown following epic early season rain and a failure of a temporary barrier Steve King had the audacity to speak:

… That means it will rain more and more places. It might rain harder in some places, it might snow in some of those places. But it’s surely gotta shrink the deserts and expand the green growth, there’s surely got to be some good in that. So I just look at the other, good side.

Seriously?  This is the modern Republican Party in the age of Trump.  Don’t worry about global ecological disaster because it might get better in a few places.

On to the links…

How Taxpayers Covered a $1,000 Liquor Bill for Trump Staffers (and More) at Trump’s Club—Nothing like a little self-serving corruption to line the pockets.  My favorite part?  Lining out the taxes on the bill.  Only the little people pay taxes.

The Tax Bill for Many Big Polluters Last Year: $0—The Trump Administration is an orgy of bad behavior and giveaways to industry.  Everyone is fat, drunk, and happy right now because they get to keep on drilling and dumping like there is no tomorrow.  The hangover in 2021 is going to be brutal for these people.

Environmentalists Fight Mining Plan By Ivanka Trump’s Billionaire Landlord—The key thing in Trump world is to make sure that you ladle benefits upon Trump and his children.  If you can manage to butter the family circle up the world is your oyster.  Or open pit mine.

The Trump Organization’s Problem with Possible Money Laundering—Just in case you needed a little reminder as to the myriad ways that the Trump Organization is profiting from the public trust.

Mike Pompeo Admitted the Arctic Is Melting. He Just Didn’t Mention Why.—This is the new Republican message on climate change.  Yes, I recognize that the planet is going haywire.  I am not a scientist, so I cannot speculate as to why.  Would you like to drill for oil on public lands?

Can New York Make Buildings Super-Efficient, Fast?—Imagine this kind of effort on a regional or nationwide scale?  This is the type of near term “victory” that we can achieve vis a vis energy usage to reduce our carbon emissions without radically altering our way of life.

We’ll Soon Know the Exact Air Pollution from Every Power Plant in the World. That’s Huge.—Or is it yuge?

1 in 5 Americans Now Live in Places Committed to 100% Clean Power—Twenty percent is a lot, but more is better.  I am sure there was a time when it looked like we would ever get rid of leaded gas and catalytic converters seemed like techno-mumbo jumbo.

Why the Bicycle’s Future Looks Bright—The bicycle’s future has always been bright because there is no simpler device that can return such ample benefit.

Dark Money Group Spent $1.25 Million on TV Ads Supporting Bill Imposing New Fee on Solar Panels—I do not watch much television, so I did not see these ads, but apparently these ads were on all the time.  Nothing says transparency like a dark money campaign to get people to pay more.

Iowans Use a Lot of Energy. Here’s How Much.—Damn, we use a lot of energy per capita in this state.

The Problem With Lab-Grown Meat—This is the same problem with organic when “big food” got into the game.  It replicated the ills of the industrial agriculture system with a veneer of planetary benefit.

The Complicated Gender Politics of Going Zero Waste—This kind of reminds me of the joke about newspapers announcing the end of the world.  The Washington Post’s headline was going to be “World Ends: Women and Children Impacted Most.”

Do Married Millennials Cheat on Each Other?—Every time I see an article about Millennials having a marked improvement in a certain behavior I believe that the headline is missing the point.  Millennials, in many wars, are reverting to norms of behavior that predate the worst generation in American history: baby boomers.  Baby boomers are the worst.  Fight me.
Oh, No, Not Knotweed!—I have yet to run across this nasty invasive yet, but based on this article I never hope to see a single sprout.

Advertisements

Friday Linkage 4/12/2019

Yep, pretty much sums up the world we are living in nowadays:

1433ckCOMIC-who-acknowledges-climate-change.png

On to the links…

A Virtual Solar Power Plant for L.A.? ‘It Will Happen’—The idea is to turn a conglomeration of batteries into a virtual power bank that charges in the middle of the day, when solar power is at peak generating capacity, and save the power for the late afternoon/early evening, when electricity demand spikes as people return home.

U.S. Wind Capacity Grew 8% in 2018—These are not crazy growth numbers, but 8% growth in a country led by Donald Trump has to be considered a success.  Now imagine an environment with a rational president.  Whoa!

Saudi Arabia To Build 6.2 Gigawatts Of Wind Capacity By 2028—Saudi Arabia is putting a lot of money into renewables.

DTE Energy Speeds up Closing of Coal-Fired Plants—This is why coal is dead.  Less cost, fewer emissions…the headlines sort of write themselves.

“Innovation”: the Latest GOP Smokescreen on Climate Change Policies—How do I know Republicans are blowing smoke about climate change?  Their lips are moving.  Normally it is “national security” that is used as a blanket defense/reasoning for whatever draconian policy they want to institute.

An Easy, Cost-Effective Way to Address Climate Change? Massive Reforestation.—No shit.  This should be point number one in any climate change mitigation plan.  Why?  It is so dead simple and the downside to planting a lot of trees is…what exactly?

Corn Pollution Kills Thousands of Americans a Year—So, we need to grow less corn.

As Mass Timber Takes Off, How Green Is This New Building Material?—This is where we get into trouble.  Instead of asking if mass timber is better than other methods we end up trying to evaluate its “green” credentials in a vacuum.

Amazon Accused of Abandoning 100 Percent Renewable Energy Goal—Corporations will only be held accountable as long as customers keep them so.  Otherwise, a decision will be made deep in a conference room somewhere that guts whatever environmental commitment has been made.

China wants to Ban Bitcoin Mining because it ‘Seriously Wasted Resources’—No truer paragraph has ever been written about Bitcoin:

In a typical Bitcoin mining operation, powerful banks of computers are dedicated to crunching out “blockchain” numbers that serve absolutely no purpose, but have value because people think they do.

Climate Change Could Make Duluth America’s Premier Destination—This is a little tongue in cheek, but the future is a scary place right now.

Forever Wild—If you have only skied major resorts tied to corporations like Vail Resorts it is likely that you have missed the spirit of skiing embodied by shaggier ski hills.  If only we could all capture a little of this magic.

Baby Boomers Commit the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ of Retirement Planning—Baby boomers are the worst.  Fight me.  Subsequent generations are going to be stuck cleaning up the mess of a generation that accomplished so little relative to what they were given.  Yet, we have to hear endless stories of their greatness.

Friday Linkage 3/8/2019

Every week I think that world cannot get crazier and every week I am shocked to find that it may have actually gotten worse.

We now live in an America where layers upon layers of the President’s advisers, confidants, lawyers, and administration members are actually convicted of felonies and sentenced to jail time but Republican loyalists continue to defend the administration tooth and nail.

We now live in an America where a national news network is working hand in glove with a corrupt political party to sway Americans’ opinions on issues to favor billionaires despite these policies harming the vast majority of people in this country.

We now live in an America…just fill in the blank with the latest depravity.  When does this madness stop?

On to the links…

What Democrats and Republicans Drink on Mardi Gras—If your choice of beer in 2019 is Michelob Ultra than you are everything that is wrong with this world.

Republicans Warn That Liberals Are Coming for Your Burgers—It makes for a nice sound bite to rile up your Uncle Carl watching Fox News all day, but it is not true.  Today’s Republican Party is a joke.  It is a purely reactionary body of low level hucksters selling a vision of society that appeals to a narrow band of the American public.

To Revive Rural America, We Must Fix Our Broken Food System—When politicians talk about rural America or the farm economy they are really talking about policies that favor gigantic agribusiness at the expense of both farmers and food consumers.  Once you understand that paradigm everything in the farm bill begins to make sense.

Jay Inslee just Launched a Presidential Campaign that will be All About Climate Change—It is likely that Jay Inslee will fall short of the nomination.  Heck, with this many people running right now it is likely that a lot of people will fall short.  However, this is an important addition to the political conversation and I am glad that Jay Inslee has the courage to make it his issue.

Post-Hurricane Harvey, NASA Tried to Fly a Pollution-Spotting Plane over Houston. The EPA said No—In Trump’s America pollution is good for you because it is brought to you by oil and gas companies.  Of course they have the best interests of the public in mind.  Right?

Coal Burning Plants Aren’t Just Polluting the Air—They’re Poisoning Water—Exactly what is good about coal?

Banks around the World Opt to Offload Coal—Get used to hearing about the weighted average cost of capital for coal projects.  The higher the WACC goes the less likely it is for coal projects to get funded because they cannot deliver the necessary return on investment relative to their risk profile.  Banks getting out of the coal game drives the WACC higher.

Wyoming Legislature Extends Lifeline to Coal Power—This is what the free market looks like under modern day conservative leadership.  If something is uneconomical and bad for the environment it must get supported because the paymasters running oil, gas, and coal companies need to be kept in business at the expense of anything else.

Colorado Democrats’ High-Stakes Oil and Gas Bill Is Finally Here—Oil and gas companies have run roughshod over the people of Colorado for decade.  Fracking rigs come right up to residential neighborhoods.  Houses even end up exploding.  A changing state is the canary in the coal mine for oil and gas dominance of the American West.

An Illinois Bill Leans into the Most Contentious Part of the Green New Deal—Environmental justice is also social justice.  As the environment is degraded the people who will suffer the most are the ones who had the least responsibility for the degradation.

Finland Approves 2029 Coal Ban For Energy Use—You go Finland.

This Is What Peak Car Looks Like—The financial argument is one thing.  What happens when cities decide that dedicating so much valuable space to personal automobiles is a waste?  The future is now.

Electrify Everything: Why our Thinking has to be as Flexible and Resilient as our Buildings—The key to resilience is flexibility.  What works in one place may not be the best use of resource is another place.  Solutions are tailorable to particular locations.

This Is How the Age of Plastics Began—Plastic is the trash that we have the hardest time dealing with and this is how the problem began.  If we need to decarbonize our society we must also work on ridding our products of plastic.

Recycling Is Broken—How we deal with our trash—which is really what recycling is at the end of the day—is coming for a reckoning now that we can no longer easily outsource the job to China and other developing economies.

Californians are Losing Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Recycling Deposits—As human beings we are not the most rational creatures when it comes to money despite what economists would like to tell us.  Sure, this money is spread out in small amounts across large numbers of people so the perceived loss is low.  However, this is still a lot of money left on the table.

Is This the Death Rattle of Mail-Order Meal Kits?—God I hope so.  These kits are like the worst habits of your local grocery store delivered to your doorstep.  So much plastic.

The Science Behind Why Hipsters Always End Up Looking the Same—Interesting.

Friday Linkage 2/15/2019

It’s not a polar vortex in February, but for some reason I would take the cold temperatures over what we have had the past two weeks.  How does an inch or so of ice that gets topped off with nearly a foot of snow and capped with a little wintry mix?  Add in the drifting from 40 mile per hour winds and temperatures that swing thirty degrees in a twenty four hour period.  That is what February has been like so far in eastern Iowa.

Now you know why I am dreaming of spring.

On to the links…

Uniquely American’: Senate Passes Landmark Bill to Enlarge National Parks—Good things can happen.  This is an unalloyed win for advocates of public lands.  Granted, it still requires a signature from individual number 1 but I have to imagine that even he is inclined to go with the flow on this.

What’s Missing from the Green New Deal—I think that the most important thing is that we are having a conversation about the Green New Deal.  Could you imagine this happening just two years ago following Trump’s “victory” and the ascension of a completely Republican controlled Washington D.C.?  Nope.

Priorities: Where Do You Start with the Green New Deal?—If it were me, I would start with a nationwide reforestation effort focused on degraded lands.  It could be lands impacted by mining in Appalachia, beetle kill in Colorado, and wildfire in California.

Is Renewables’ Production Tax Credit Bullet Proof?—I have to imagine that in this political climate the production tax credit for renewables is going to get renewed past 2020.  Some red state Republicans support the PTC and Democrats are in favor, so the odds are favorable.

Trump Administration will try to Exempt Specialty Bulbs from Energy Efficiency Standards—Of course the Trump administration will try to roll back new energy efficiency standards.  Try is the operative word.  BTW, can we just kill the Edison bulb trend?

USDA says Filler once Known as ‘Pink Slime’ can be Labeled Ground Beef—Of course the USDA would allow pink slime to be labelled as ground beef.  It is like we live in a dystopia where the president feeds visitors to the White House fast food…oh shit, we do live in Idiocracy now.  Damn.

China is polluting California’s air—Pollution is both local and global.  The air may be horrible in China and India, but those same pollutants will impact other countries.  Even countries an ocean away.  Just because we have outsourced our pollution does not mean that we have avoided our pollution.

Coal Developers Take Note: Climate Change Killed This Coal Mine—Climate change is real and people are really starting to take notice.  If a judge uses this as a reason to stop coal development we may have finally turned a corner.

War on Plastics May Stunt Oil Demand Growth Projections—Take a look at the chart:

Plastic Pie Chart.jpg

Thirty six percent of the demand for plastic is for packaging.  Buy less stuff to save money and reduce the demand for disposable plastic.

Another Way To Power Electric Cars: “Refillable Technology”—Flow batteries and related technologies, which this particular article deals with, seem like a great way to get around the problem of quickly charging EVs.  I wonder if there is a way to get the best of both worlds.  Make an EV that you charge at home most days, but have the option of refilling with charged electrolyte when on a trip far from home.

How EV HVAC Use Impacts Range Much More Than Extreme Temps—If there is a negative article about EVs you can bet the press is going to pounce.  Here is the thing, even with reduced range an EV will handle your daily commute.  Why is this even a story anymore?  And another thing, where were the articles about traditional ICE cars not being able to start in the polar vortex?

California to Transition to 100 Percent Electric Buses by 2040—Why can’t we make this a goal for 2030?  If transitioning 12,000 busses is the equivalent of 4 million cars we should be all over this effort.

Bottle Recycling in Oregon Hits 90 Percent Record High—I live in a state with a bottle deposit law and it works.  I imagine that if we adopted a nationwide ten cents per bottle deposit law that recycling rates for cans and bottles would increase accordingly.

How Big-Box Stores Bilk Local Governments—Here is why our governments—local, state, and federal—do not have the money to implement programs people care about: businesses have manipulated the tax code with loopholes to avoid paying any tax.

Solar Jobs Climb in Iowa—Most of the news around solar in the U.S. has been a downer lately as the Trump tariffs have bitten the industry.  However, Iowa solar jobs were up which is a good thing.

Friday Linkage 11/30/2018

I feel that this article on CNBC.com just about nails the past two years:

Donald Trump’s all-GOP government in Washington ends a two-year run as it began, by struggling to govern at all.

The president who vowed to make America great again has rattled financial markets, reduced farm exports and raised manufacturing costs with his tariff policies. As growth slows, he blames the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates and threatens General Motors for closing plants.

The president who promised law and order, having previously fired the FBI director, fired his attorney general over the Justice Department’s Trump-Russia investigation. The acting attorney general has been openly hostile to the probe.

The president who insisted Mexico would finance a border wall now wants American taxpayers to pay as a condition of keeping their government open. Congress doesn’t intend to build the wall, so the government could shut down next week.

Thus completes the chaotic circle of governance by Trump and the GOP Congress: fanciful promises, contradictory priorities, presidential provocations that Republicans won’t rein in. Voters responded this month by handing the House to Democrats.

Obamacare survived. The better, cheaper Republican alternative never existed.

The infrastructure plan Trump promised business and blue-collar supporters has not materialized. GOP congressional leaders prefer to spend on tax cuts.

Republicans delivered tax cuts, but not as advertised. Proceeds profited the wealthy far more than the middle class and ballooned the budget deficit, with no evidence of giving the economy more than a short-term stimulative boost.

Trump’s abandonment of the fight against climate change has not revived the coal industry, which keeps closing unprofitable facilities. The president answers his own government’s warnings about the climate by saying he doesn’t believe them.

Republican congressional leaders want cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to shrink government, reduce deficits and relieve pressure for tax hikes. Trump vows to protect those popular benefits.

Tough executive branch oversight, which preoccupied Obama-era Republicans, vanished when their party won the White House. Lawmakers who talked of prosecuting Hillary Clinton skipped past Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email for government business.

Unlike Obama, Trump has supplied a steady stream of genuine scandal. Cabinet members and senior presidential aides have departed under ethical clouds, while Trump’s former national security advisor and campaign chairman confessed to felonies.

Unprecedented turnover and turmoil hinder White House operations. Trump has filled just over half the administration jobs important enough to require Senate confirmation.

How Republicans attempted to retain power in this fall’s elections exposed the chasm between their policies and public sentiment. Most voters believe the GOP tax cut has not made them better off, so Trump promised a new one.

Republicans who earlier favored repeal ran as defenders of a principal Obamacare achievement — guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions. Trump accused Democrats, rather than his own party, of threatening Medicare.

On Election Day, Americans issued their verdict. They cast 9 million more votes for Democrats than Republicans in House races, the largest margin in midterm election history.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

On to the links…

Trump’s Latest Talking Points on Climate Change Will Make Your Brain Hurt So Bad—This is what happens when a minority of the American people elect a coddled man child with the intellectual capacity of a fifth grader throwing a temper tantrum about chicken nuggets.

The White House Talking Points About the National Climate Assessment Are Demonstrably False—There has to be a special place in hell for Sarah Huckabee Sanders who has spent her time in the Trump Administration glibly lying her way to a position as a commentator on Fox News.

Solar Energy Beats Coal On Critical Infrastructure Resilience—Remember when Rick Perry was going to save coal and nuclear plants by using an obscure national security rationale?  Looks like renewables are good for a resilient grid after all.

US Could Meet Paris Emissions Pledge with ‘Natural Climate Solutions’—Restoration and better management of our natural resources could go a long way in helping us mitigate the worst effects of climate change.  These are not exotic technological solutions waiting for discovery.

Climate Change: Report says ‘Cut Lamb and Beef’—No surprise here, but the evidence is getting to be as damning as that against smoking.  Eating beef and lamb is bad for the environment.  It’s just a question of how bad.

Massive 14-Year Oil Spill Ordered To Be Cleaned As Leaks Continue—It is appalling that this has taken fourteen years and over 150 million gallons of oil to finally come to this solution.

Colorado Joins California Low Emission Vehicle Program In Rebuke To Trump—Our federal government is hamstrung by the fact that the Senate is controlled by a minority of Americans.  However, the states with the most population and dynamic economies can move forward with climate sensible policies.

FedEx is Getting 1,000 More Electric Delivery Vans—FedEx has over 60,000 trucks so 1,000 is not a sea change, but it is a start.

Meanwhile In China, The Electric Mobility Revolution Is In Full Swing—There is a lot to dislike or even loathe about China—Muslim “reeducation” camps in the western part of the country for example—but the command driven economy is really moving forward on electric mobility.

The Case Against Cruises—Apparently, cruises are a disaster for the environment and the communities in which these mega ships port.  I always liked the line about cruises being the penultimate example of “premium medicore.”

Lettuce is Stupid and You Shouldn’t be Eating it Now Anyway—Lettuce is just a refrigerated water delivery vehicle.  Salads are a waste.  Never mind that eating lettuce is about the most likely way to get food poisoning anymore.

Friday Linkage 7/27/2018

I want to wake up and think that today is going to be a good day, but with the current state of affairs in American politics I wonder if that is ever possible anymore.

Do you remember a time when the talking heads on Fox News would bloviate about how Barack Obama wore a tan suit or put his feet up on the desk in his own office?  Yep, it happened.  Where is Sean Hannity’s outrage now that the current occupant is a thrice divorced serial philanderer who has paid off multiple women to keep the stories about their affairs quiet prior to an election?  Where is Sean Hannity’s outrage now that the head cheese puff is literally taking the side of a Russian dictator over the intelligence agencies of the United States?  Where is…oh, fuck it, we’re screwed.

On to the links…

POW Wants Skiers to Become Effective Climate Advocates—I am a member of Protect Our Winters because I fear that my generation will be the last to remember real winters where it got cold and snowed.  If we want our children to be able to play in the snow it is essential that we act in this time of national environmental disgrace.

The Teenagers Fighting for Climate Justice—As the right wing gets older, whiter, and closer to death these kids—now I sound old—are the future of our politics.  Republicans are going to have to reckon with multiple generations of people that they have screwed over for the benefit of the Baby Boomers.

Fossil Fuel Industries Outspend Clean Energy Advocates on Climate Lobbying by 10 to 1—Do you want to know why Exxon Mobil wins in Washington D.C. every time?  Dollars.

Accidentally-Released Documents Show Interior Agency Prioritized Industry Over Public Lands—Why did national monuments get shrunk by Donald Trump?  For the oil, gas, and mining industries to take advantage of our public lands.

Trump Administration to Stop Collecting Money from Companies that Damage Public Lands—Not only are these companies getting a sweetheart deal on leases on public land, but now they will not have to worry about paying for the cleanup.  This administration is officially worse than that of Warren G. Harding.

Most Americans support the Endangered Species Act—People like these environmental rules.  You know who does not like these rules?  Rich people who run companies that benefit other rich people.  You know who is going to win out on this issue?  The rich guys.  Always bet on the rich guys to win in Washington D.C.

This Is Why Lawmakers Want to Gut the Endangered Species Act—It is my contention that a lot of these interests see the intersection of this current Congress and Donald Trump as the last time in a generation when their policy prescriptions will find traction.  They are trying to get while the getting is good, so to speak.

Trump Wants to Weaken Coal Miner Protections as Black Lung Disease Makes a Comeback—Trump loves coal miners so much he wants to make it easier for them to get black lung, harder for them to get treatment for black lung, and probably wants coal miners to thank him for all of his “help.”

Scandals Pile Up For Interior Chief Ryan Zinke—Ryan Zinke is no Scott Pruitt, but he probably now holds the mantle for Trump’s most scandal plagued cabinet member.  Remember, this guy thinks he has a chance to become President of the United States in a few years.  Oh wait, given the current occupant I would not be surprised to hear that Paul Reubens thinks he has a shot as well.

Trump’s Plan to Revoke California’s Car Pollution Waiver makes a Mockery of Conservative Principles—Just stop at “Trump makes a mockery” and you will be fine most of the time.  Seriously, Republicans only care about states’ rights when it refers to abortion.  Everything else falls under the federal purview.  I do look forward to this court battle because it will place a lot of people at odd angles to each other.

The Billion Tree Project In Pakistan Is A Success—Given the current wildfire situation in the western U.S. I have to wonder if there is a place in our national discussion about a massive effort to reforest degraded landscapes.  Let’s see, it would bring jobs to rural areas and improve the environment.  It would provide long term benefits for important watersheds and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.  Yeah, it’s got no chance.

China Made Solar Panels Cheap. Now it’s Doing the Same for Electric Buses.—Do you remember when seeing a house or building with solar panels was rare?  Now, it is common.  Get ready for the same thing to be true with electric buses.

What Other States Can Learn from California’s Solar Mandate—I do not think we should worry about pushing small scale distributed rooftop solar onto residential roofs until every warehouse, big box store, and parking lot is covered in solar panels.  If you want to put panels on your house’s roof like me, make that choice, but the effort should be going into the big roofs first.

Climate Change May Cause 26,000 More U.S. Suicides by 2050—Well, isn’t that an uplifting headline.

How to Fight the Actual Source of Ocean Garbage (Which Isn’t Straws)—I bet if you asked one hundred people what the major source of ocean pollution is that not one of those one hundred would name abandoned fishing gear.  Demand change.

Microplastics Are Invisible, Scary, and Everywhere—The archaeological record of this late stage of our civilization will record us being the “plastic people.”  Someone or something will dig up our remains and wonder what our obsession was with plastic.

Disney to Eliminate Use of Plastic Straws by Mid-2019, Other Single Use Products to Follow Suit in the Coming Years—Straws are one thing, but the other single use plastics are the things that get me.  We need to eliminate disposable plastics across our consumption patterns.

What Does It Take to Make a Decent Paper Straw?—Now that more and more places are foregoing the plastic straw you are going to have to become used to what makes a good paper straw and what is just cheap, imported crap.

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.