Think or Thwim

A Collection of Things Worth Considering

Author: Jeff Buscher (page 1 of 45)

We’re Using Less Water

This is a pleasant surprise.

US GPD and Water Use 1900-2010

We’ve also added about 30% more people since the peak in 1980.

::Peter Gleick – Significant Figures

Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars Talks About Running Out of Ebony Trees

Where the Water Is


And there seems to be a lot more than that 250 miles below the surface of the Earth:

A Glitch in the Matrix

I took this in our greenhouse today.

Edit: My cat picture made it to the front page of Reddit. I can die now.

An Isolated Tribe Meets Modern Man for the First Time

The video description says this is the Toulambi of Papua New Guinea meeting Jean-Pierre Dutilleaux and his team.

15 minutes. Link to video.

Long Term Perspective on Oil

2500 years of oil extraction:

Oil Extraction

:: Zero Energy Construction

The Psychological Roots of Resource Over-Consumption

This chapter Nate Hagens wrote for Fleeing Vesuvius is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time.

It’s about the evolutionary/neurological reasons humans are susceptible to addictions and the effect those traits are having on our collective ability to deal with the imbalances our species has created: climate change, resource depletion, etc. “We would be wise to adhere to an evolutionary perspective in considering a future more sustainable society.”

Humans have an innate need for status and for novelty in their lives. Unfortunately, the modern world has adopted very energy- and resource-intensive ways of meeting those needs. Other ways are going to have to be found as part of the move to a more sustainable world.

Most people associate the word “sustainability” with changes to the supply side of our modern way of life such as using energy from solar flows rather than fossil fuels, recycling, green tech and greater efficiency. In this essay, however, I will focus on the demand-side drivers that explain why we continue to seek and consume more stuff.


When addressing ‘demand-side drivers’, we must begin at the source: the human brain. The various layers and mechanisms of our brain have been built on top of each other via millions and millions of iterations, keeping intact what ‘worked’ and adding via changes and mutations what helped the pre-human, pre-mammal organism to incrementally advance. Brain structures that functioned poorly in ancient environments are no longer around. Everyone reading this page is descended from the best of the best at both surviving and procreating which, in an environment of privation and danger where most ‘iterations’ of our evolution happened, meant acquiring necessary resources, achieving status and possessing brains finely tuned to natural dangers and opportunities.

This essay outlines two fundamental ways in which the evolutionarily derived reward pathways of our brains are influencing our modern overconsumption. First, financial wealth accumulation and the accompanying conspicuous consumption are generally regarded as the signals of modern success for our species. This gives the rest of us environmental cues to compete for more and more stuff as a proxy of our status and achievement. A second and more subtle driver is that we are easily hijacked by and habituated to novel stimuli. As we shall see, the prevalence of novelty today eventually demands higher and higher levels of neural stimulation, which often need increased consumption to satisfy. Thus it is this combination of pursuit of social status and the plethora of novel activitiesthat underlies our large appetite for resource throughput.

Continue reading

8 Month Old Hearing For the First Time

His reaction to his new cochlear implant made my day.

1 minute. Link to video.

The Oil Spill Cleanup Myth

Charles Wohlforth covered the Exxon Valdez oil spill for the Anchorage Daily News 21 years ago. After years of writing about how inadequate Exxon’s response was he finally came to this realization:

…I had covered the wrong story. The important point wasn’t that Exxon couldn’t clean up its oil spill. The point was, no one could clean it up.

By telling the story of the company’s incompetence, we had perpetuated the myth that real cleanup of a major oil spill is possible. We had left the industry free to say that next time, with proper preparation and equipment, they would be able to recover any spilled oil.

The truth is that when large amounts of oil go into the ocean, it’s a huge success to recover as much as 10 percent. More than that is rarely possible. Oil spreads too rapidly and reacts too quickly with the environment; and the ocean is a challenging place to work, especially considering the logistics of speedily gathering up a blob the size of a small state.

…as a society we’re not compelled to allow drilling that puts these precious places at risk. We could instead choose to not drill offshore, then let energy prices rise accordingly and switch to the alternative fuels that would become economically viable.

:: Seed

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