How much energy does the Internet use?

At the moment I’m using the Internet, as are you.  In many ways, the Internet is the largest and perhaps most successful global system ever built by humanity.  And yet because of the way it was built—haphazardly, over the course of a few decades—there are no maps, no records documenting its entire structure. Given my … Continue Reading

minimalism as vice

Well it looks like The Joy of Less is in my near future.  I’ve been thinking about so-called minimalism over the last few weeks, and it’s been showing up here and there, and now there’s this new book-length treatment of the idea, which I’ll see if I can’t round up and read through.  But before I … Continue Reading

meaninglessness, absurdity, and the very idea of a sustainability metric

There is this TED talk going around, in which the idea of a sustainability metric gets some fire.  I thought of course of the DOM, although that’s a slightly different idea, and which I’ll come back to in a bit.  But first I want to address the talk itself, which both Grist and the Atlantic … Continue Reading

Invisible waste (part 1): water

Environmentally aware individuals are perpetually bombarded by the worst sort of false choice, one that’s been drilled into us even by environmental activist organizations. You know the sort of false choice – the one where, as Adam points out, a big corporation will sponsor a wing of the local museum or aquarium and include a … Continue Reading

Towards a better measure of everything

Can there be a good single metric that can measure everything we care about—the things that make human life good? Probably not. But maybe we can try for less bad. Right now the metrics we use are bad. I think there’s little general recognition of the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is reported … Continue Reading

extended mind activism

A thought experiment: Two people each want to get to the Museum of Modern Art.  Inga consults her memory, remembers the address, and makes her way to the museum.  Otto, whose memory is slipping, consults his iPhone for the address, and makes his way to the museum.  On account of his memory loss, Otto relies … Continue Reading

Tapping Our Oil

You and I own some oil.  It’s in the ground in Texas and Louisiana. Much has been made of the recent decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).  Some are for it, and others are against it. But there’s something missing in this discussion – something that affects our economy, the future of alternative … Continue Reading

fossil-fuel vegetarianism

The book I credit most in my decision to go vegetarian is Bloodties by Ted Kerasote.  In a way that’s funny, since Kerasote himself hunts (and eats) elk, and doesn’t even advocate vegetarianism; but he offers a deeper way of thinking about food than most philosophers’ treatments, which tend to focus only on the harms … Continue Reading