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Exponential Environmentalism

I've been thinking about this curve a lot over the last few years. It's not an exact representation of real data, but serves as a heuristic for thinking about the massive changes that humans have wrought on the planet. 

curve of global fuckedness.png

 

 

Amount of Global Environmental Fuckedness: Almost every major biogeochemical cycle- water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous- has been majorly and irrevocably altered by human impacts. We are truly living in the Anthropocene. And these changes show no signs of slowing.

Traditional Conservation: I'm talking NGOs, government programs, posting on social media about how we need to cut back on meat consumption or save this river or deal with that toxic waste heap. This works- slowly. It takes much longer to un-fuck something than to fuck it up in the first place. This is called entropy.

Exponential Technologies: The only thing that seems like it has a chance of moving faster than the Curve of Environmental Fuckedness. It's also a root cause of a lot of problems: technologies are just tools, whether used for good or evil.  It seems to me that while we still need traditional conservation mechanisms, it makes sense to pour as much time, energy, and capital as possible into potentially exponential solutions to the environmental crisis.

These types of technologies often have dramatic business upsides as well, which makes them more viable candidates for an economically sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable financial model (classic triple bottom line). I've been researching companies that, in 2018, use some sort of exponential technologies for good.

Examples of harnessing exponential technologies: 

• rapid reduction in solar panel cost (Telsa, any solar installer)

• using machine learning to optimize energy efficiencies (NestCarbon Lighthouse)

• hydroponic agriculture that uses 1% of the land and water of traditional ag (Plenty)

• reduction in satellite imaging costs for more effective land use monitoring (Planet)

• innovations in food biochemistry (Impossible Foods)

These exponential forces are the only curve that I can think of that is keeping pace or faster than the pace of environmental degradation. Traditional conservation has its place, of course- I’m not advocating for ignoring it. But if we allocate more resources into harnessing some of these exponential forces into doing good for the planet, we might have a chance of keeping a semblance of the pre-Anthropocene Earth.

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Mount Rinjani

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Mount Rinjani

At the end of February, I realized I hadn't left the States for a while. My good friend Kyle (http://khemesphere.blogspot.com/) is working in Laos, so I bought a spur of the moment ticket and headed to Asia for a month and a half. In April we went to the island of Lombok, Indonesia, and walked up Mount Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia. These are a few moments from the 3 day journey.  A spectacular place with great friends. 

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Ice

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Ice

Things are black and white in the Frank Church wilderness right now.

The Frank Church Wilderness from the air.

But even though ice covers the surface of the rivers, there is action below.

What's going on under there?

The Big Creek Gorge.

Deep in the Big Creek Canyon, the sun rarely hits the water. I walked down to the Middle Fork of the Salmon and saw the sun twice over about 14 miles.

Ice shelves on Big Creek.

Pictographs made by the Tukudika in the Big Creek Gorge

Waterfall Creek enters the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

The details in the ice are a miniature world when you get close. The back waterfall is about 5 feet tall or so.

Snow on ice; Cougar Cree

These guys don't care that it's February.

If fish could read they'd be better informed.

PDA

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Wolf Kill

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Wolf Kill

Taylor Ranch, Idaho.

About mid-morning I heard howling across the river.

Lone wolf.

Of course I walked up the hill to investigate. As I crested the top of a hill, I was suddenly face to face with two wolves. We were both a bit startled. They loped away but there was more howling in a different direction.

Two wolves.

I crested another rise and the hillside was crawling with wolves enjoying their meal. They took off as soon as they saw me.

Four wolves.

Investigation of the crime scene: they cornered a deer in a steep draw and scattered it everywhere.

Remains of a... deer.

Less than an hour after the kill, the skull was already picked clean by magpies.

Picked clean.

Oh ya, I just made this website too. What an incongruity.

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