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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August's question

This will mark the beginning of a discussion topic in the form of a question of the month series.
If you have a suggestion for question of the month send it to diogenes@twc.com.  Indicate whether you want your name attached to it.

The second question involves two people and their "carbon footprint" all other things about them are equal.

A.  Drives a minivan which gets 24 mpg and has no  descendants.

B.  Drives a hybrid which gets 40 mpg and has 3 children.

Which person has the larger carbon footprint?


  1. To be a little Clintonesque one possible answer lies in the meaning of “has”. If “has” means “responsible for” then I offer the following:

    The question invokes no time frame, and in specifying that one individual has three children (and the other has no descendants) it seem to indicate that the person “owns” the carbon footprints of the children and by implication the carbon footprints of their potential descendants as well.

    While using this definition of “has” it would be possible to construct a scenario in which “A” has the larger carbon footprint but it would be so restrictive that it would hardly pass the laugh test.

  2. Good musings Tom about time frames and ownership of children's carbon footprints and Clintonesque meanings of words. And you know, the three children might grow up and invent an incredibly cheap carbon-scrubbing technology that reduces atmospheric carbon, slows the rising seas, and begins to heal our planet. Hey, maybe we could base a carbon-credit futures market on such speculations?

    OK, I'm being a little snarky.

    I have to say, I'm not certain at this point that anyone's carbon footprint is something I need to be particularly worried about. At least not until I'm required to start paying for it. Which I guess is where this question -- in the broad, collective sense -- is really taking us.

  3. “Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die.” Gore Vidal

  4. I think Thomas Malthus, and Agent Smith from the Matrix movie, would agree with the late Gore Vidal.

    Now, resource depletion (particularly depletion of fresh water and arable land) is something I worry about. The easiest answer (but not the easiest solution) to issues of resource depletion is to reduce the population.

    This doesn't necessarily mean eugenics. Bill Clinton has observed that the best strategy to effect this is to educate and provide occupational outlets for women, for the reason that in places where women have these opportunities, the birth rate drops significantly. (This is true, anyway, in most Westernized democracies.)

    If so, can it be said that George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" might ultimately contribute to long-term environmental sustainability?

    BTW, I failed to answer the question as posed. For the record, I'd say B.

  5. I agree with Rob about B.

    I disagree with Vidal since there is the possibility of finding an equilibrium point.

    The reason for the post is that I find it amusing that overpopulation is obviously the primary cause of the man made component of climate change and yet those who worry most about CC do not put proposals for reducing that on the table.

  6. Hey, I know. Let's help women and families who sometimes struggle to pay for birth control by requiring insurance companies to include birth control in their coverage without copays or a deductible. Except of course those who object on religious grounds. They should have all the children God wants them to. Then it will be God's fault.