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Blog item: Turning Sharks into Biodiesel. Why Stop There?

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20 comments, last: Aug-24-2009   Add a comment   Author:  PT (Aug-1-2009)
Categories: Philosophical & Quality of Life, Sustainable Living, Wildlife and Nature

Sharks: oil source for an energy-hungry worldAs reported in Blue Living Ideas, folks at the Arctic Technology Center (ARTEK) in Greenland feel that sharks are a nuisance anyway, and that those sharks can be the next big source of biodiesel – that is, by grinding them up whole.

My comment?  I think we should grind all animal flesh into biofuel so we can keep driving and heating and other pleasant activities.  We can start with sharks and other annoying large species, move on to elephants and bears, and eventually when forced to do so, reach down to rodents and such.  The grand finish will be human beings, certainly a source of fuel energy as much as any other animal.

The last person left, in order to self-convert into biofuel, will need to jump into the grinder her/himself.  With the way inventory and demand usually works, this should conveniently leave some modest excess biofuel for the next intelligent species that evolves on this planet.

Animals need to realize their value exists because we humans have a purpose for them!

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Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-24-2009)   
Interesting comment, Sevdalina.
I think that humans are born as a wide spectrum of behaviors. Just as we are born with different color skin, eyes, or other physical attributes. Some are more easily 'systemized', while others seek more freedom. (The common term these days is Attention Deficit Disorder, though it is only one of many in a wide range.)
Those with the most commonalities group together and call themselves "normal" while the fringe avoids them to some extent depending on particular feelings/hormones/desires.
All 'rights' that are often spoken of come about as agreements between those individuals who choose to be considered 'normal'/'civilized' and the group that created or inherited that system. Even in the worst oppressive regimes, it is a choice between living within that system or leaving (sometimes by dying-see "Arawak").
I am pessimistic because I think that the System of systems(centralized currencies?) has become so large and influential that humans have mostly forgotten how to live without it. As the system fails, many will not be able to deal with it, while some will build new systems too similar to the only ones they know.
The current favored response to economic problems is to "rebuild" the economy from the top-down, thus ignoring the situation where the bottom has forgotten how to build things. Much like Spain when it ran out of gold. Some people are accustomed to being self-sufficient or even to just live without help from above. Hopefully the richer countries won't destroy the planet. So far, there is little evidence that we won't, and we shall see what the personality distribution of humanity yields from the disasters to come.
The bottom line is that there are many ways of spoiling things, but the best way to keep something working is to have a method of moderating feedback. (For example: the cost of regulation as a tax on consumption.)
Comment by:  speeva (Sevdalina Peeva) (Aug-24-2009)   Web site

I read carefully all opinions until now and find out something amazing -- all 3 commenters who are citizens of free and rich country think that people are born good and system should be blamed when things went wrong. All free in different extent pessimistic about future.

I, as a citizen of postcomunist country, believe that some people are born with wrong moral genetics and able to screw up any system. If strong public control exists system could be doing fine and all people could be happy with the result.

Maybe there are two totally different but equally effective recipes for spoiling things?
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-24-2009)   

I see a much darker picture, but hope for a brighter one. I see zombies eating each other.

I hope for neighborhoods learning to support and defend each other, forming new alliances sans corporations or government, based upon real needs and the real value of labors (eliminating the pseudo-value of organizational endorsement of profitable achievement).

For example: organizations of farmers to protect the land, rather than to protect the organizations of profitable insurance (farm bureau), formed based upon sustainable methods (combination of conventional technology and organic inputs), organizations of parents who protect children from exploitation in the same vein, rather than to find things to spend money on, they choose tutors and administer their own schools sans taxes.

Unfortunately, we will all be arguing over climate change and job 'creation' programs while fields decay from lack of petroleum inputs and people starve from lack of money, even though they don't eat money and they excrete fertilizer...

What if They created a System and nobody used it? Would we still have to not show up for wars?
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Aug-23-2009)   Web site

Some interesting points, AG. One answer to all this is that an apocolyptic reversal could occur in the future. A bit like when the people of the Philippines rose up against the Ferdinand (and Imelda) Marcos dictatorship. The masses were weak, unarmed, but the government could not stand up to the united will of the people.

My question is whether perpetual manipulation of peoples' motives for the purpose of profit will win the day as we spiral downwards, or will other instincts finally break through, from a darker and stronger instinct toward freedom than you and I normally need to confront.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-19-2009)   

I think that's a nice analogy, Dave.
However, I also think that the concept of 'striving' has been co-opted by profiteers and power-mongers to convince everyone that they have to compete with each other and hold the other guy down in order to get up. Nobody 'strives to cooperate'. It's an assumed oxymoron in today's mental state of human nature, yet it's exactly what we need to do. We need to strive toward relaxation and let our lives unfold as they will while we do things involving minimization. The 'great achievers' often have acknowledged that they stood on the shoulders of others. Let's work to turn that around so that those they stand on don't get trampled in the race for the fire exits by those doing the standing. The contortions of reality by marketing, education(as a tool of marketing), money, and our own left brain (justifying its dominance over the right brain by changing the log entries of our memory) are leading us to self-destruct. Working harder to 'fulfill our potential' seems to lead toward a short-term better life for a few.
Perhaps part of the problem is thinking that humans(as the article parodies) determine the value of anything at all -- even humans. Along with that, is the idea that we can consciously make our life into something specific with planning and logic. Allowing more randomness and conserving our mental resources may be the best way to accumulate a random ability to deal with randomness, just as our DNA does, and that seem to have worked out well to successfully sustain terrestrial DNA for much longer than any societal planning.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Aug-19-2009)   Web site

I will pipe in with my experience on the human nature topic.

Human nature is incredible; but how much do we each fulfill our own potential? Only by steady practice, or sometimes through suffering, do we reach a better understanding. If we do not keep repeating the same errors, we can rise out of the swamp and achieve great things. At this moment society, meaning the majority of people, are mostly repeating the same errors -- but through enough good efforts by some, and with enough pain that comes out of screwed-up values, societies may one day, in a distant future, come to a far better way of life. I find human beings to be like diamonds buried in garbage. With enough rot and rain, the diamond can become visible.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-11-2009)   

Yes. I agree on those points you said we agree and disagree on setting the description of human nature.
Human nature can be described when we leave out the marketing (spiritual) and tomfoolery (philosophical) and lies (political), leaving natural and economic terms, which, as far as deciding what is sustainable and what is destructive are the only significant factors. The others are just a matter of sales techniques. If we can't throw the carpetbaggers off our property, we'll not survive.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Aug-11-2009)   Web site

I think that, in a very general sense, we agree that the current system is destructive; that it is set to collapse in the near future; and that it needs replacing with something fairer and more in tune with nature.

We probably diverge in our ways of describing the problem, which can (at least) be put in naturalistic, economic, political, philosophical or spiritual terms. And I disagree that any of us can truly know what constitutes human nature.

Discussions like these need not be conclusive, but I believe they prepare us for the changes to come by forcing us to think. Thank you.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-11-2009)   

Dolphins and swallows are not separated from their source of nutrients by artificial means.
For a quick brushup on Rand and Nash: read Thom Hartmann's book, "Threshold". Reading Rand can take decades, as she liked to write very thick books.
The elite class is currently clawing at the edge of a precipice. As they fail, (this is the elephant in the economics 101 room) they won't be replaced as such because there aren't enough resources available (including air) to rebuild the consumptive system that would be big enough to pay their debts AND provide the cash to put new elites in place.
Humans are not unnatural. Our artifices upon artifices are. The universe favored order that could reproduce itself, and so life came to be, and the battle against entropy favored ever more complex life, so imagination came to be. When we (order) create order other than ourselves (artifice), it adds complexity and possibilities to living (tools, shelter, etc.). When we created order other than ourselves which creates order other than itself (manufacturing), we unleash an unnatural force of consumption. When combined with deliberate disconnect from resource availability (religion, capitalism, humanism, etc.), we set our manufacturing System of systems upon ourselves. Without some form of feedback or moderation ("Limits to Growth"), then we feel the effects of the unnatural.
Human nature is pretty simple, actually. It is to live and respond to circumstances. If we create unnatural circumstances, then the natural response is to behave irrationally. Consumerism is an artificially amplified circumstance. Overconsumption under normal circumstances results in pain or death or destruction of a colony or species.
No public persona is in any way a human being. Once marketed, a person becomes a product of systems, rather than a process. Bill Gates' African ventures are paid for with money and resources stolen from the future. Presidential candidates are products of capitalism belief systems, and any resemblance to actual human behavior is either coincidental or deceptive.
We can have more than our opinions. We can have those annoying things called "facts" and "science" if we truly follow the proper methods of using them to evaluate the full spectrum. Nothing sacred, nothing left unquestioned. There really are such things as fundamental concepts which follow the rules of the natural world. When anything is called "off limits" to investigation, then you can bet there is a profit being made.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Aug-11-2009)   Web site

If our separation from the soil is the problem, it must be one we share with dolphins and swallows. I'm not sure what John Nash thinks, since his prize-winning work was undertaken during a time of mental illness and he has since refuted it. As for Ayn Rand, I have to admit she is just a name to me. Must do more research.

Learning from history, "from past empires and civilizations", would be good if we could do it. Someone famously said that the only lesson we learn from history is that we don't learn from history.

We don't know what human nature is because none of us live in a state of nature: we have all been influenced by parents, friends, education, the media, religion, government and corporations; we are all limited by laws. If the elite class that currently does the planet the most damage suddenly ceased to be, would there be a flood to replace them? I don't know. I wouldn't want to become one of those people. Would you? Are we unnatural?

McCain, Obama and others worked long and hard in a bid to become president, while millions of Americans would hate to have to take on that job. Bill Gates spends half his time trying to destroy Microsoft's competition, and the other half combating disease in Africa. These contradictions show how impossible it is to be sure of what constitutes human nature.

We can only have our opinions. Mine is that the system is forcing us to act unnaturally, creating fear and division within the species, making us greedy. It needs changing, though certainly not to the faux communism of the Soviet Union or Bulgaria a generation past. The new system needs to recognise our place in the natural balance, but it can only do that if it recognises the equality of every human being: no rich or poor, no Canadians or Kenyans, just people.

That's what I think. Others are entitled to different opinions.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-10-2009)   

WH: You are thinking scientifically and logically, but not sensibly and naturally. The experiment does not need to be done on babies. No experiment is really necessary. We see that humans respond to stimuli. If our imagination creates artifices of societies and systems that favor selfishness (Nash, Rand, etc.), then those who are selfish will profit. If this causes a psychotic break of the imagination from the natural world (believing that we can 'do anything we set our mind to'), then eventually, the species will either die off or lose its ability to adapt to the changes it creates. We see it happening now, but the trick is to keep from destroying the possibility of evolving (destroying the climate). We have enough data from past Empires and civilizations to determine what laws (fences) to build around which behaviors (consumption, mostly, needs to be moderated directly at the decision points). Unfortunately, we have allowed a profit-based consumptive system to build fences around reality instead. This can only end badly, regardless if we do a few unethical experiments on babies: we already ARE separated at birth from our real mother: the soil, and the damage is apparent in our immune systems, our need for external government 'family', and our denials of our effect on nature.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Aug-9-2009)   Web site

Sevdalina's, your clarification makes your point crystal clear. I don't agree with you, but I don't think this is something that can ever be solved. For the question is: what is human nature?

It's a question that has remained contentious at least since the days of Plato and Socrates. It hasn't been solved yet. Sometimes headline writers suggest scientists have found the answer, such as the discovery of 'the selfish gene', but these have proved to be red herrings. The only way to test human nature would be to do totally unethical experiments that separate babies from the rest of society.

My position is that humans are naturally kind, generous, trusting creatures, but their upbringing in society makes them selfish, hateful and frightened. I can't prove this.

The opposite opinion is that humans are naturally selfish, and their upbringing and influences from society force them to co-operate with one another. Likewise, this cannot be proved.

We must each come to our own conclusions about human nature, I think.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Aug-3-2009)   


Thanks for clarifying. You seem to be saying what I have tried to say many times. Humans did, however, create systems of laws to moderate themselves, and sometimes they work. The current level of consumption in rich countries is a temporary state of things until the resources get too expensive to consume. We could be pro-active and pass a consumption/sales tax on everything in order to reduce consumption. I'm not saying it will happen, but it would logically follow from some other political actions taken to preserve what is thought to be important.

See my comment at Dave's article on the Reptilian brain...

Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Aug-3-2009)   Web site

I was discussing this interesting topic with a friend just yesterday. After some discussion, my friend and I agreed that we have an evolutionary part of the brain that is dedicated to survival, reproduction, and comfort. That is the "reptilian" part of the brain.

In addition, I promulgated the thought that we also have a higher brain, and I use that word without quotations on purpose. The higher brain is not influenced directly by survival or other comfort issues, although it is aware of those issues. The most advanced part of that brain is controlled by wisdom, which is by definition the greatest good for all.

I believe that we humans have the unique capability of moving, through various efforts and practices, the center of control, both conscious and unconscious, from the reptilian brain through levels of the higher brain, until ultimately the wisdom brain controls action; action includes speech.

Seen in this way, the challenge for humanity is both 1) to help more and more people strengthen the wisdom brain, and 2) to make laws and incentives and changes in social structure and infrastructure that will convince enough additional people (through the lower brain) to follow constructive ways of living. The second part is needed due to time pressure and also to help create the model for a better way of living,

I am now motivated to write about this in a fuller article... coming soon to a blog (this one) near you!
Comment by:  speeva (Sevdalina Peeva) (Aug-3-2009)   Web site

OK, I didn’t make my point clear and will try again.

The comment I disagreed was written in almost the same vein as the original article but with one difference that seemed very important to me. That’s because I live in a developing post-communist country and have different perspective to the problem.

I don’t agree in regard that some people should be blamed more than other for global problems as species extinction, climate change and resource depletion.

Evolutionary we humans are animals and thus we competed for hundreds of centuries for territory and food as any other species on Earth. Being more intelligent and adaptive we invented sophisticated ways to enlarge our territories and food supply. We should admit that human deep unconscious nature consists of instincts to achieve dominance and expansion.

If all present riches and politicians from developed countries are put out of equation, then immediately they will be replaced by other humans who will drive SUV’s, go on safari in Africa and fly for vacations to the opposite end of the globe. They will need more energy, bigger houses, more and bigger everything – or “better life” acc. to modern way of thinking.

I see this in my country and you can bet this is happening everywhere else. Being poor is not a virtue itself.

I don’t see “Desperate African people” stealing food from lions to be different from present politicians, Wall Street brokers or plastic surgeons. I don’t see farmers as being more “innocent” than hunters and fishermen - mighty ancient civilizations failed due to unsustainable agriculture and intensive modern techniques are harmful to the land fertility as well.

Difference between all those people are just means they use and if they can, all of them will switch to most effective methods of exploitation of available resources and they all have the same underlying psychology and attitude.

In order to control our impact on the planet we should be aware of our true nature. So the problem is the size of human population and growing scale of impact resulting from it and there should be limits for everybody.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Aug-2-2009)   Web site

Yes, William, you are correct. I hope everyone knows about Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal". It may need updating for modern circumstances.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Aug-2-2009)   Web site

I'm glad you disagree with me. I was, after all, suggesting certain people be turned into biofuel. It was a 'tongue-in-cheek' comment. I think David's original article was written in the same vein.

I read the article you suggested. The desperate humans depicted there seemed to be scavengers rather than predators. The lesson for me is that we are intelligent enough to adapt our behaviour to different circumstances. Humans do not have to be aggressive, but unfortunately our culture encourages aggression. That must change if we are to survive.

PS: I have no objection to human fat taken during cosmetic surgery being used as biofuel. Perhaps it could fuel the ambulances needed to transport the genuinely ill to and from hospital.
Comment by:  speeva (Sevdalina Peeva) (Aug-2-2009)   Web site

Wavehunter, let me disagree with You -- we should admit that exploiting nature and other species is not a product of civilisation. Look at the following article:

Humans are predators -- maybe the problem is just the scale of human activity and overpopulation...

Nobody blames lions and sharks for their "hunting for surviving" activity...

Having higher intelligence maybe could help to understand "limits" and avoid big catastrophe -- can we "hope"?
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Aug-1-2009)   Web site

Let's start with the humans. Perhaps those who drive the biggest, noisiest, smelliest gas guzzlers first; then people who fly on 'Pet Airways'; then politicians from certain political parties I could name; heck, then the rest of the politicians.

That should keep us going for a while, and by the time we've finished we may no-longer need biodiesel to solve our problems: our problems will be solved.
Comment by: City Worker (Aug-1-2009)   

Yeah. Barf me out.

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About author/contributor Member: PT (David Alexander) PT (David Alexander)
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Member: PT (David Alexander) My lifelong pursuit, since age 18, has been to live more fully and find wisdom. This has involved studies with Zen masters, Tai Chi masters, and great psychotherapists while achieving my license as a gestalt therapist and psychoanalyst.

Along the way, I became aware of how the planet is under great stress due to the driven nature of human activity on this planet.

I believe that the advancement of human well-being will reduce societies addictive behaviors, and will thus also help preserve the environment and perhaps slow down the effects of global warming and other major threats to the health of human societies.

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