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Doing always more: good or evil?

  1. Aug 27, 2016 #1

    jack action

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    I want to start a philosophical discussion about what was said by @anorlunda in post #1337 and following of the thread YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis, mainly:
    This was said with energy reduction in mind, but it has much broader implications from my point of view.

    It seems that doing more is a necessity for evolution. But is it? I can see the advantage of having a tool to reduce my workload from, say, 100 h to 50 h to do the same job. But it seems that people choose to still work 100 h and get twice as much instead of having what used to be enough in just half the time and using that free time to do something else like further education and knowledge in some way.

    The fact that some people choose that lifestyle is not a problem for me, but it seems that we have to live this way, whether we like it or not. If we choose not to, we either can't or have to pay for common infrastructures used by others anyway.

    To extend on the previous examples:
    • There is a trend for microhouses ... but they're illegal everywhere around here because municipalities all have minimum area needed for houses. But build a mansion which consumes much more energy in spite of having all the latest technologies and you might get subsidies because you use technologies with positive environmental impact.
    • Someone prefers to live 50 km away from his/her workplace. Apparently, it is economically advantageous. But it never includes the cost of infrastructure which is shared among everyone. The worst case I heard about was a person living in Montreal taking a commercial flight twice a day to commute to Toronto (500 km). Cheap Montreal housing vs high paying Toronto job made economical sense to do so. Should we, as a society, now begin to put effort and energy on cheap transportation for daily commute between Paris and New York? What could be the advantages for the communities?
    Disadvantage of sharing cost

    There is also the concept of realizing the implications of our actions. For example, around here you can live in the city with water & sewage services administered by the city or you can live in the countryside with your own well and septic tank & drain field. In the city no one cares about how much water they used or what they flush in the toilet. When someone moves to the country - for the pure air and the tranquility - they are often face with wells that don't deliver what they were used to or drain fields that get clog or overflow. They must change their habits and/or pay the repair costs. They learn quickly. In the city, the same problems are still there, but since the costs are spread over the entire population, no one sees a real gain or lost by changing his/her habits.

    Worst than that, the environmental laws are more severe. For the country, the home owners must have almost drinkable water coming out of their drain fields, which means septic systems that cost a lot more than what they used to. Amazingly, for the cities, it is different. When it rains hard, there are still a lot of cities who send the rain water in the sewage system and when the system overflows, they jut bypass the rain/sewage mix directly to the river. They have a special exception from the government to do so, because it would cost too much to set the proper infrastructure and people would complain. But people in the country do complain about the price of their newer installations, and they still do it because it is an obligation.

    Sharing infrastructures helps doing more with less. But the fact that these public infrastructures desensitize people from their responsibilities is a real problem. In the long term, one could even think that the costs related to pollution & population monitoring outweigh the initial low cost advantages.

    Furthermore, how much individual liberty (choosing way of life, people monitoring) can we afford to loose in the name of cheaper infrastructures that some might not even want or need?

    How can the scientific community help in that regard? Does it have certain (moral) responsibilities?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2016 #2


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    Until they get their water bill, of course. :oldwink:
  4. Aug 27, 2016 #3


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    I'll have to limit myself here, I had liked the post you linked to.
    It seems that in the area I live, the taxes and certifications for everything you do does not match the services rendered. :frown:
  5. Aug 27, 2016 #4


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    Bus/ metro/public transportation system - high capacity at rush hour commute - empty, or nearly empty at other times
    Grocery stores - open 9 to 9, was 9 to 5, closed for customers after those hours ( re-stocking ?? )
    Olympics - grand billion dollar festival for 2 weeks - most of it shut down and left to rot afterwards.
    I don't know - do we build for what capacity? Lineups all the time such as initiating staggered work hours, choose between large festivals such as the Olympics or stagger that activity in time and place.
    Its a political problem, and so far politicians promise but hardly deliver with a wider holographic picture in mind. Short term gain.
  6. Aug 27, 2016 #5

    jack action

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    Where I live, it is a fixed price per household: In my city, 125$/year for water and 118$/year for sewage (water is easily available here). Even if it is based on use, I hardly think ±100$/year (probably less) would make a big difference on people's habits.

    That fixed price is also a concern: I remember one year the city council did not raise those rates in spite of increased cost, but rather took the difference from the general tax rate; It was easier to sell for the council. Not really fair to those not having the public services, but still paying their own.

    But who will fight or complain for a 10 or 20$ amount?
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