Friday, March 30, 2018

Some investors consider more than their own financial returns, considering investment’s environmental sustainability and social responsibility, as well as corporate governance. Each of such ‘ESG’ investing strategies have now been shown to actually enhance returns: https://www.db.com/newsroom_news/2016/ghp/esg-and-financial-performance-aggregated-evidence-from-more-than-200-empirical-studies-en-11363.htm
Furthermore, the risk of total loss of capital in ESG investing has been shown to be quite comparable to money otherwise invested: https://insight.factset.com/the-hidden-risks-of-csr-esg-and-sri-investing.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Realizing Our Economic Maturity.

Maturity?

In our individual lives, growth precedes a long period of maturity, which is recognized as both the goal of growth and as a process itself. To mature is both to achieve a certain size and to achieve a certain standard of behavior.

Economic Maturity?

Our  physical economy can’t grow forever on our finite earth. Despite those feeling a healthy economy must always grow, nothing healthy grows forever - such cancerous growth wouldn’t fit on this planet. Common sense heeds calls for healthy economic maturity, yet many economists fail to understand.

    Economic Growth with Physical Maturity?

    Some claim society can become mature physically while continuing to grow economically, but we know economic growth without physical growth as inflation. There’s the sound argument that value can grow separate from physical growth; a growth in quality versus quantity. Does conceding this surrender to full separation of economic growth from physical growth? Certainly products can improve in value apart from changes in product mass. But the needed research changes the physical world, and thereby increases entropy. Real value intrinsically has a physical component. Yet this physical component may even shrink with growth in quality, value and economy. One can distinguish between such massless economic development and economic growth which intrinsically involves physical increases. Would such economic development with physical maturity satisfy the economic requirement for ‘growth’? Can such development be systematically massless, or does the needed physical exploration cost render even economic development intrinsically linked to physical growth? In any event, ‘economic growth’ is too imprecise a term for increases in value with physical maturity.

Realize?

Here the word can have two meanings; first, to achieve; second, to become aware of something. Both meanings fit; economic maturity might be achieved in our city, and we might become aware of economic maturity and it’s appropriateness.

Why Realize Economic Maturity?

    What’s wrong with economic growth forever? The problems with this fiction are many:
    1) It won’t fit. Our earth, having a definite size, can sustain a limited physical economy. More industry than this degrades the environment upon which that industry relies. Others argue that economic growth need not accompany physical growth, but isn’t that merely inflation? Stagflation, where inflation accompanies no growth, shows that these two are separable, but stagflation isn’t economic health. Eventually sanity calls for economic health without physical growth. But when should we begin to consider what amount of economic activity is mature? Perhaps, as air’s carbon pollution exceeds limits of climatic stability, upon which our food supply depends, now is not too early.

    2) Economic growth promises social equality, but has delivered increasing inequality consistently instead. Piketty showed that growth accompanied worsening inequality thoughout Western economic history. If growth doesn’t give poor folks a better chance, why bother? Why crowd things; things needed by us and our children?

    3) Accepting false limits weakens, but accepting real limits can strengthen by focusing limited resources where real, but limited, opportunity exists. Clear language can help us distinguish false from real limits, and false from real opportunity.

How Do We Realize Economic Maturity?

In one meaning of ‘realize’; to understand and acknowledge, we might realize economic maturity (in the sense of physical maturity), when we see that it has grown to it’s ultimate desirable size.

In another meaning of ‘realize’; to achieve, we might realize economic maturity (maturity in the sense of full ethical development) by seeing beyond preoccupation with growth; with economic ‘bigness’ to better, more ethical measures, based on qualities, not quantities.

Do societies have lifespans? Every society that previously existed did. What limits that lifespan? What extends that lifespan? What does a society need to ‘live’? Let’s ask the students of history; the historians.

How to better equality without overgrowth has been explored by prominent ecological economists Herman Daly http://www.steadystate.org/eight-fallacies-about-growth/, Joshua Farley, Hazel Henderson and in recent work by Tim Jackson. Let’s apply this wisdom to understanding how we can better our real fate.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Robocalypse?

Robocalypse: What’s not to like about the elimination of  all human labor with robots? Isn’t it good to eliminate labor with productivity?

In the pre-industrial world, filled with fossil fuels, minerals and ores, and empty of people and pollution, those before us brilliantly eliminated much labor using these resources and new techniques. And it fit: the techniques proliferated, the population burgeoned and the inevitable pollution dissipated at first. Techniques were key to this transformation, inspired and rewarded by patents, and by research and development tax write-offs, and quantified by measuring labor productivity. Such a central and celebrated measure was soon referred to simply as ‘productivity’, and expected to grow forever.
So the world filled with people and pollution, while emptying of the easiest-to-access resources. At first, negligible resources were used up in transforming resources into products, yet eventually, coal might be mined from such difficult-to-access seams so rocky that machinery breaks faster than the coal dug can repair it. This exemplifies the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) reaching zero, where net energy returns have dwindled to nothing. At that point it is easier to stay home than to work and burn all the mined coal just to mine, repair and clean up after that very mining. Another way to zero EROEI is through increasingly risky and polluting mining or oil drilling, where cleaning up the inevitable seems unaffordable, and is worse than the resources extracted are good.
In our world today, still filling with willing workers, pollution and problems, while emptying of easy-to-access resources, we can all be better off by increasing resource productivity while sacrificing labor productivity. We can employ many more, pollute much less and conserve our dwindling limiting resources. This can clearly help the worst-off. But what of the majority? It turns out that even the best-off of us can benefit by opportunity broadly increasing, since we are all measurably stressed by the fear of poverty and healthily reassured by greater equality of social opportunity, as documented in The Spirit Level.
Instead of the Robocalypse sparing us lives of drudgery, further elimination of labor worsens our lives, and misses the chance to make the best use of what we have the least of.
But isn’t this Robocalypse inevitable? It may be, but why hurry to meet it? Instead, we can slow the evolution of labor-eliminating techniques by lessening revenue loss via tax write-offs for research and development, and for further extraction of fossil fuels we can’t afford to burn.
Hat tips to Herman Daly, Hazel Henderson, Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett and others.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Air Repair via ways of least cost, waste, disruption and uncertainty.


1) The least possible cost is negative; carbon removal that is profitable independent of the carbon removed.
2) The least disruptive carbon removal methods may already escape notice.
3) The least uncertain technologies already exist and work now.
4) The least wasteful methods waste nothing while reducing earlier existing waste.
Hence let’s consider existing, profitable, efficiency-enhancing yet unnoticed carbon removal methods.
Reducing atmospheric carbon inevitably takes energy. Indeed, in storing energy, life reduced carbon, and in getting some of that energy back, we humans are oxidizing carbon.
The least disruptive energy source may well be existing sunlight already hitting earth, yet not inducing photosynthesizing much.
Two large regions now catching sunlight that don’t photosynthesize much are deserts and High-Nutrient-Low-Chlorophyll (HNLC) ocean regions.
Supply of limiting nutrients can allow greater productivity, where and when other nutrients supplied can not.
Provision of limiting nutrients to plants and/or plankton may be the greatest photo-productivity increase opportunity worldwide.
Deserts are dry due to climate. HNLC regions are unproductive due to oddities of water chemistry in oxygen-rich environs.
Deserts cover 10% of earth’s dry land, while HNLC waters stretch across 1/5th of the oceans, Dry land covers nearly 30% of earth, while water covers about 70%.
10% of 30% is 3%; 20% of 70% is 14%, 4.8-fold more, hence, opportunities for engaging sunlight energy in carbon reduction in HNLC waters may exceed those in deserts.
Are there existing unnoticed profitable activities that increase photosynthesis in HNLC waters?
Phytoplankton in HNLC waters typically photosynthesize so little because low iron levels limit their conversion of sunlight in three ways:
1) Low iron directly constrains photosynthesis, since iron irreplaceably catalyzes photosynthesis in multiple ways.
2) Ongoing iron additions to HNLC waters are tiny.
3) Iron rapidly precipitates out of oxygen-rich waters, due to surprising oddities of chemistry.
What existing profitable activity brings iron to HNLC waters without notice?
1) On the Georges Bank, a once-rich fishing region, fully 4% of these water’s iron content came to Georges Bank every year as trace iron in fishing fleet engine fuel, according to
2) Energy output is the driving objective of fuel consumption.
3) Iron in fuel additives catalyzes more complete oxidation of fuel carbon, reducing soot while increasing energy output, in matching counterpoint to iron's catalysis of carbon reduction in photosynthesis.
4) Some iron picrate fuel additives have proven profitable by increasing energy output of marine engines.
5) FPC is a prominent iron picrate fuel additive company worldwide.
6) The world’s shipping fleet burns about 300 million tons of fuel oil each year.
7) FPC’s current fuel additive treatment levels, of 50 ppb Fe, optimize individual ship owner profitability.
8) The Redfield ratio describes marine life’s ratio of use of sea nutrients, and predicts which nutrient’s low levels will limit sea life growth. It addresses carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Sea life uses C:N:P in the ratio of 106:16:1. The original Redfield ratio has been extended to describe another limiting nutrient, namely iron, after the discovery of iron’s importance in limiting sea life. The extended Redfield ratio is still under exploration, and is estimated to be C:N:P:Fe = 106:16:1:~0.001.
9) If 300 millions tons of marine fuel oil were treated with 50 ppb iron, and a fifth of this iron fell on HNLC waters, catalyzing photo-productivity, (at an extended Redfield ratio of C:N:P:Fe = 106:16:1:0.001), this iron would induce 1.5 million tons of carbon removal from air via HNLC waters’ increased photosynthesis.
Perhaps marine fuel can be treated with higher levels of iron, to optimize, not ship owner profitability, but global carbon removal.
1) The upper acceptable limit on treated fuel’s iron content may be maintaining existing fuel ash levels in tests at about 0.01%, or 100 ppm,.
2) Increasing fuel iron content via treatment to 50 ppm, instead of 50 ppb, might increase carbon removal in HNLC waters 1,000-fold, while perhaps negligibly affecting fuel ash content.
3) Expanding fuel treatment at these higher levels to the entire worldwide shipping fleet’s fuel usage of ~300 million tons fuel oil per year might increase carbon dioxide removal in HNLC waters to 5,500 million tons; carbon removal there to 1,500 million tons, to ~4% of annual human carbon release, and to more than the current carbon release of the entire worldwide shipping fleet’s fuel usage.

1) Mapped here are shipping densities worldwide.

 
2) “HNLC conditions occur in remote, offshore areas of the
subarctic north Pacific, subtropical equatorial Pacific, and Southern Ocean...” EldridgeML 2004: 19
3) Much shipping crosses to and from Asia and North America via‘Great Circle’ routes, between Asian manufacturing and USA consumers. Perhaps this shipping traverses the subarctic North Pacific.
4) Perhaps FPC targeting those ships traversing subarctic North Pacific waters for fuel treatment at the higher 50 ppm level would restore much carbon fixation/reduction while using existing infrastructure in profitable ways.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Industrialism or survival?

      Trump is a train wreck, but Clinton, also too bound to Wall Street, can not stop industrialism from ruining our earth. Wall St. finances most industry, and industry now eliminates too much labor using technology and too much resources. This yields unnecessary unemployment and pollution, while depleting resources and destroying our climate, and thus our food system.

      Trump is a nightmare, but Clinton awakens us not from that horrible dream. Committed to industrial finance atop the world, she too would doom earth to this ongoing climate crisis; to unneeded unemployment, and thus undue poverty spreading widely; and to expanding wars for fleeting resources, wastefully propping tottering industrial titans up for moments more, before industry, thus expanded, takes more of humanity out by it’s inevitable collapse.

      We need Dr. Stein as U.S. President. Jill understands the interlocking nature of finance, industrialism and the degradation of earth’s human habitability. She is acutely aware of the opportunities awaiting us by turning from industrial suicide to sustainable survival.

      Why choose between different flavors of apocalypse? We can quickly convert industrialism into something lasting, helpful, and just. Vote Jill.



Monday, June 06, 2016

Did our Ancestors Stumble From Night Paddocks to Grain Agriculture?

Did our ancestors stumble upon grain agriculture through paddock grazing?

Many grain crop ancestors exhibit fur-zoospory. In other words, many wild relatives of grain crops are adapted to burlike dispersal, forming spiny seedheads that tangle in livestock, etc. fur so that the seed is carried enmeshed animal’s coats to distant grounds to grow.
Night paddocks can protect herded animals from non-human predators. Burlike fur-zoospore  seed might be inadvertantly sown into night paddocks rendered fertile by livestock manure built up over the night stays of the animals.
A livestock rotation among night paddocks could induce grazing down of competitors, fertilizing with manure and seeding with large-seeded grain relatives, all to yield grain-like harvest after a seasons’ growth. Rotation among paddocks could help interrupt livestock pest and disease cycles.
Perhaps early nomadic gatherer-pastoralists noticed better wild grain relative yields where night paddocks were the year before, then tried sowing paddocks after grazing.

One way to check whether this happened is to see whether it is happening among current mixed pastoralists-agriculturalists now.

Raising Grain.

    Grain farming provides us with calories, protein, and edible oils (from oil seed crops). But the current culture of annual spring grain crops, (and ‘biennial’ winter grain crops) uses lots of energy-intensive plowing and cultivating, leading to wind and water erosion of our practically irreplaceable topsoil.

    Enter the dream of perennial grains, that would yield year-after-year continuously, and catch the spring sunlight that annual grain plants are still too small and young to intercept. By catching more sunlight, perennial grains might both yield well and have energy reserves to fight off diseases and such, to survive and yield for many years. Perennial grains could also preserve soil from erosion, by leaving little ground exposed by tillage, compared to frequent tillage for annual grains, at least in theory.

    In practice, according to Rodale’s Peggy Wagoner, attempts at perennial grains have yielded either lots for a few years or little for many years. This may be because of the different life strategies of massively-seed-yielding annuals versus massively-pest-resistant perennials. To explain, perennials face a longer window of disease and pest susceptibility. Their perennial life strategy is a gamble that they can do better than annuals by setting seed years from now, instead of this year (or next). To hedge their bet, they invest energy resources in preparing to fight, and actually fighting off, diseases and pests. This leaves less energy to build big seed yield in early life.

    This contrasts with heavy-yielding spring and winter grains, which dodge much pest and disease susceptibility by going to seed quickly and completely. This uses up energy that might have otherwise been available for weathering the long multi-year windows of disease and pest susceptibility faced by perennials. Is there a reason that it has been so difficult to combine large yearly seed yields with long life? Perhaps there has been both evolution of traits valuable for either lifestyle, as well as evolution of assemblages of these traits.

    DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) encodes traits in specific locations within chromosome chains. Maybe traits useful for either one lifestyle or another; either annual or perennial, have evolved to be grouped into assemblages of traits nearby on the DNA chain. They might tend to have evolved to be in two groups, one for each lifestyle, because plants did well with either one assemblage, say annual, or the other, perennial, but plants with mixed traits did poorly, and left relatively less mixed-trait offspring. This can explain why it’s been so difficult to combine heavy, constant yields and long life in grains.

    Is the dream of having living roots continually holding soil while yielding grain year-after-year practically impossible? Is there any way to use what we have created; short-lived heavy-yielding grains and long-lived, light-yielding grains, to piece together some method that can sustain itself, while sustaining humanity?

    Masanobu Fukuoka sowed winter grain into ripening rice in autumn, then, a couple of weeks later, he harvested the rice, leaving the winter grain growing with a head-start on the weeds. Late next spring, he then sowed rice into the ripening winter grain before harvesting the winter grain, so the rice growing in the stubble also had a head-start on weeds. This model of staggering two short-lived grains growing together to continually hold the soil might guide us.

    A part of Fukuoka’s method may be hand-harvesting - heavy mechanical combines might crush the young sprouts beneath the ripe standing ready-to-harvest crop. Can we overlap a set of the short-lived high-yielding perennial grains that Wagoner documented, to have living roots continually holding soil, but by a changing assemblage of plants? This might yield mixed-type harvests.

    Can we sort, after harvest, different grains mixed within the same year’s harvest, or use them mixed together? We now sort weed seed from grain commercially, so separating differently sized grains seems do-able.

    If this works, we might succeed at getting harvests of grain while living roots continually hold grain field soil, yet without any one grain opening a long window of susceptibility to diseases and pests.