[ExI] Paleo diet and sustainability, yet again

J. Stanton js_exi at gnolls.org
Wed Apr 13 07:11:20 UTC 2011

Keith Henson wrote:
>>  seven billion people is far, far
>> beyond the sustainable population of the Earth even if you posit nearly free
>> energy . . . .
> That is utter nonsense.  With really low cost energy you can make
> fresh water out of salt and pump it inland a thousand miles.

See: soil salinization.

"Estimates indicate that roughly one-third of the irrigated land in the 
major irrigation countries is already badly affected by salinity or is 
expected to become so in the near future.  Present estimates for India 
range from 27% to 60% of the irrigated land, Pakistan 14%, Israel 13%, 
Australia 20%, China 15%, Iraq 50%, Egypt 30%."

> Likewise, you can salvage phosphorous our of sewage and ship it back
> to the farms.

Plants are not made entirely of ammonium nitrate, potash, and phosphate. 
  Just to choose one example:

Also see: giant dead zones (larger than Connecticut) in river deltas due 
to fertilizer runoff.

I'm not sure your understanding is at a level that allows you to throw 
around terms like "nonsense".  Cheap energy doesn't solve the problems 
of agriculture any more than cheap caffeine solves the problems of sleep.

Frankly, this is a self-cancelling argument.  If anyone is worried about 
the impact of eating meat (or anything else), then by definition these 
are issues of concern.

There's a reason most of us go into technology or theoretical 
disciplines: it allows us to work on well-constrained problems in a 
restricted space.  These are not such problems.  Soil alone is a complex 
biological system -- let alone entire ecosystems of which it is but one 
part.  There's a reason I posted the references I did: most people have 
no concept at all of the realities of the cycle of life, and either 
romanticize it, oversimplify it, or ignore it because its constraints 
are momentarily inconvenient.  And we're still a long way from free energy.

 > I am really getting annoyed at the postings on this list.  I would
 > think the people who post here should understand Extropy.

Tirelessly working to overcome limits is more productive than ignoring 
them, wishing them away, or claiming they don't exist.

It's easy for all of us to see the fallacies in attitudes such as 
Singularity Utopia's, because that's our field of expertise.  It's 
harder for us to see the fallacies in our own attitudes as applied to 
fields that are much more messy and complicated -- and generally outside 
our expertise.

Finally, recall that it's only the educated middle-class and above that 
advances knowledge: filling the world with poor people whose entire life 
is devoted to simple survival doesn't accomplish anything but making 
more people poor in a vicious positive feedback loop.  There's a reason 
we don't see headlines like "New Cancer Treatment Discovered by 
Illiterate Liberian Slum-Dweller" or "Bangladeshi Subsistence Farmer 
Invents More Efficient Refrigerator, Production to Begin In 2012".

I'm inclined to drop this subject now, because it is not terribly 
germane to the purpose of this list, and it's unlikely to win me any 
friends or allies.  However, I do ask that people keep in mind the 
degree of irritation they justifiably evince when someone who knows 
little about spaceflight or computation makes sweeping generalizations 
-- and that it is possible to be on the other end of that particular 


PS: As a reward for slogging through all this, here's a delicious recipe 
that even the worst kitchen klutz can make:

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