An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabilization.. debate

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reikiman
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ArcticFox posted the following video at the trail end of a long thread and I though this was important enough for its own thread. What I found with a little looking is this guy did a long series of videos covering this from all sorts of angles, not just this one socratic style debate.

The interesting part is their rhetorical method. This is Pascal's Wager, which you can read about here: wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager

This video is like a table of contents to their videos

For your navigation pleasure, the entire "Expansion Pack" of videos supporting the video "How It All Ends" have been replicated here. These videos anticipate and answer EVERY OBJECTION OR CRITICISM of the argument contained in "How It All Ends" that the author has ever heard. Unbelievable, but true. Go ahead--take 'er for a spin and see if you can find any holes!

The original video and the entire "Expansion Pack" are also available for download as MP4 files, available for editing, burning, subtitling, mashing up, ripping off, making fun of--whatever. You can download those--as well as the scripts of all the videos--at manpollo.org

http://Manpollo.org and http://wonderingmind42.com also both offer a much easier navigation experience than the links below, as well as discussion forums, and other resources. Check them out!

Your Mission

Your Mission

Your Mission

Your Mission

Your Mission

Your Mission

Your Mission

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davew
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Excellent catch, David. As much as I agree with the conclusion, I couldn't shake the feeling that the video's reasoning was specious. I did not, however, make the intuitive leap of equating it to Pascal's Wager. It may be a useful video nevertheless. Given the popularity of lotteries and bottled water in our society there are clearly a preponderance of gullible people out there. If videos like this can bring them over to the side of the angles it might be a good thing.

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PJD
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

I only watched the introduction, and all I can say now is I will be very interested in the rest of the chapters.

But for now, here's my editorial on the subject:

The IPCC seems to be thinking in too small a box by limiting their warming predictions to only those they can "prove". In their latest "summary for Policymakers" they write:

"It is likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values."

I am a civil engineer whose day-to-day job is to do my bit to advise "policymakers", so my response to this statement more than a little bit of consternation.

It appears the IPCC has allowed these same "policymakers" to intimidate them into only limiting their predictions to values that they are, in some vague qualitative way, "sure of" rather than advise the policymakers of the improbable, but truly catastrophic scenarios, and the action needed to mitigate them.

Now, many of you may think that if the IPCC and other scientists took this approach, they would be shot down with accusations of "extremism" or "scaremongering". But, there is nothing "extreme" about designing for the worst when the potential harm is large. We civil engineers, and building code committees, do it all the time if there is potential for loss of even a few lives if something fails. For example, a high-hazard potential dam - one that would likely result in loss of life (even one life) if it failed must be designed, or existing dams retrofitted as soon as funding allows, for two unlikely events:

1. A probable maximum precipitation (PMP) event. The maximum physically possible rainstorm over the dam's watershed;

and,

2. A maximum credible earthquake (MCE)- the maximum physically possible energy release at the closest possible active fault or historic epicenter to the dam.

(We get one break - we don't have to design for both happening at once!)

These are very improbable events, unlikely to happen over the hundreds-of-years life of the dam, they add a lot of cost, often to protect just a handful of lives, but it is what society has dictated.

In contrast, if we followed the current IPCC-encouraged approach to climate change, we would only be designing the dams for events we could "prove" (say, greater than 50% probability) would happen. This would of course, result in 50% of the dams failing over their lives - something everyone agrees would not be acceptable!

But in the case of climate change, the improbable event to be mitigated will do more than wipe out a few towns in a valley, it could wipe us all out.

So, while we continue to, at this 11th hour, to hear a lot of industry flack attacking the IPCC, I have yet to hear someone say that even the IPCC's recommendations are terribly compromised.

Paul D.
Pittsburgh

jdh2550_1
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Paul - I very much like your comparison between civil engineering of a dam and the comparison to IPCC's mandate of only "provable" events.

Are there probability models for PMP and MCE? If so, then that would be an interesting benchmark to use in deciding where to draw the line in what a body like the IPCC should investigate vs. what it should not. I mean there does have to be some form of sensible limit, right? No one asks someone to engineer a dam to resist an asteroid strike - nor, of course should they - so where do you think the line in the sand should be?

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PJD
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Are there probability models for PMP and MCE?

Good question - this is where the meteorologists and seismologists get pretty vague.

I've heard a vague "the PMP is about equal to a one in couple thousand years probability" bandied around. For earthquakes, where there is a lot of progress estimating the intensity of pre-historic earthquakes going back 10,000 years from geologic evidence, it is a longer time period.

But they are really an apples and oranges comparison. The PMP and MCE is deterministically based (an actual calculation of a worst case storm size and track, or fault rupture), while the field of probability is an entirely different department.

Civil engineers are still largely Newtonian-deterministic types, but probability has made it's inroads, such as the load and resistance-factor design method for structures.

John, what is your trade if I may ask. Are you with the U. of Michigan?

cycle9
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Thanks for posting this, and Paul, thanks for the comments from an engineer's perspective. This is truly enlightening stuff. It is interesting, because while I've been concerned about climate change for years, recently I've actually been thinking more about peak oil, and the potential ramifications of that. What this makes clear to me is that if one looks at our present dependence on oil from a "risk management" perspective, there is not just a singular risk we must be concerned with, but a whole cluster of them, and that the chance of extreme events is great in such an unstable situation. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in the book The Black Swan, humans do very poorly at predicting extreme events. He uses the example of a turkey on a turkey farm. Every day the turkey isn't slaughtered, the turkey gains more confidence that the farmer is its friend, there to take care of it and feed it. Therefore, it never foresees the day before Thanksgiving, i.e. its slaughter, which is an extreme, unpredictable event from its perspective, not subject to normal inductive reasoning.

We are like the turkey headed towards the slaughter, thinking that because oil is cheap in the past, it will be cheap in the future. And because the sea level hasn't risen, it won't rise. Wishful thinking based on faulty inductive reasoning. All it takes is one "black swan" (i.e. some catastrophic system failure) to disprove it. And, of course, then it will be too late!

Morgan

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Morgan, this is a very interesting thought you bring.

It makes me think of geologists -- they think in terms of glacially slow movements, or rather continentally slow movements. They can show continents drift at an inch per year and have done so for the last 150 or so years that they've been able to make accurate continental scale measurements. I suppose they can deduce from other evidence that this rate is generally true.

But there are some who are in the catastrophic camp of geology. That continental events tend to be slow and steady, but that every so often they make a drastic jump. And they're not just talking about earthquakes, but every so often there are even more dramatic events. One of the books I've read, When the Earth Nearly Died and a followon book Cataclysm are summaries of hundreds of scientific journal articles that when taken together paint a picture that 12,500 years B.C. there was a cataclysmic event that reshaped continents etc.

Since I don't have a time machine I don't know if what they say happened is what happened. But for example they cite studies of 'flood' myths (e.g. Noah and the Ark) from around the planet and show how the variations of the story show how the flood event affected different cultures different ways.

Anyway, yeah, I think there is a human tendency to stick to our garden or football games or whatever and ignore the big problems in the world. Kinda like how Frodo Baggins had to be dragged kicking and screaming to save his world, eh?

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vinnie
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

I truly appreciate this thread. As I said before, these types of collaborative discusions lead, at least for me, to considering many different perspectives and pieces of knowledge. This is the my path to deeper understandings.

Reading this thread and watching several of the video links has me thinking of how fractionalized science has become out of necessity in order to study and comprehend the vast intricasies of our world. There are so many different science disciplines and a myriad of specialists within those disciplines. This, unfortunately, now leaves us in the position where few exist who specialize in the discipline of sewing all the science back together to create a thorough picture.

I'm also connecting The Black Swan ideas to David's considerations of catastrophic geologic events. Some anthropologists subscribe to the view that the Mediterranean sea once was a vast, dry valley that flooded in one event, thus the universal flood myth. If that did occur, what human would have ever expected that? Hell, look how many people stayed in there homes, how many tourists flocked and how many loggers stayed on the job with a smoldering Mt. St. Helen's in the background and scientists in the foreground telling everyone to leave in a big hurry. It makes me wonder if humans in general are mentally equipped to mitigate potential catastrophy. Lemmings leap into the sea when there are too many of them...

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cycle9
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Vinnie,
Regarding the difficulty of today's science I have a viewpoint on the fractionalization of science, though in a different area (for a peek at what my lab does, see http://bioinfo.unc.edu/). Our main goal is integration of disparate molecular biology disciplines, and we do this using the tools of computer science, mathematics, biology, biochemistry, and chemistry. While there is a tremendous amount of fractured and disparate knowledge, I believe it is a sociological problem that inhibits people from making sense of it - because the computer tools can help us do that, if we use them. But too many scientists are caught up the old paradigm of being "the expert" in one thing, rather than being information integrators guided by the appropriate tools. I ended up being an "integrator" by accident - starting out in physics and computer science then ending up in biology. And it has been a frequent struggle against the strong tendency of the system to force me to specialize in one tiny little area. I have had to do a lot of pretending to be specialized, even when that was antithetical to what I really believe is important. But the system is waking up, and realizing that people like me who do integration are valuable. We actually have more and more training programs for students in these kinds of integrative, interdisciplinary sciences. The only problem is there is a long delay in the training pipeline from student to practicing scientist.

Quote:

It makes me wonder if humans in general are mentally equipped to mitigate potential catastrophy. Lemmings leap into the sea when there are too many of them...

I agree, and in the past, I think the reason we have survived is natural variation in the population. Some are more inclined than others to do "dumb" things like flocking to an active volcano, and so even though some sub-populations have been wiped out by such behavior, enough avoided such fates to carry on.

But with something like climate change happening on a global scale, there is not really anywhere that the more cautious ones who would like to avoid floods, pestilence, famine, and wars can escape to! I suppose there are small things, like not living on the coast, not living in huge population centers, being able to grow ones' own food... but those are pretty small potatoes in terms of mitigating potential disaster on the scale we could experience (as he emphasizes in the video, it's not a matter of predicting the future, but of calculating risks, and I believe there is a moderate risk of major, global upheaval due to these issues).

Morgan

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Youch! If I read and understood correctly Morgan's last paragraph then that's a pretty unhappy conclusion - even with natural selection we're pretty much doomed? Don't bother to debate this part of my post it's a pathetic attempt at humor. Also, I guess it's not news to me but it's just a little stark when considered like this.

Paul - I'm a software engineer by trade and a "risk averse entrepreneur" by nature (which, alas and alack is not a good combination). Why do you ask? Not that I mind - but I kind of wonder if it was because I asked a dumb question :-).

Yes, you're right they are apples and oranges so let me rephrase my question to you (and any others who care to ponder it) : Given that there are limited resources to spend on researching and planning for the effects of GW then what yardstick should we use to prioritize the use of those resources?

In general I fully agree with you that the IPCC being directed to only consider what's provable could be problematic - but rather than just saying "that's wrong" I'd like to try and figure out "what's right".

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vinnie
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Morgan, that is great to hear more places are emphasizing the kind of integrated work you are doing. I applaud it! I have been working on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)focus in k-12 science education and agree that there is a huge lag time between investment and outcome with education...as there should be if the education system is worthy.

John, if I understand your question clearly, you are wondering what aspects of human impact on climate change are more important to address first? I think it is a matter of assessing what we can actually control as individuals and where the biggest reward for your output lies. For example should you spend your time working on the campaign of a politician that supports reduced emission measures, or should you spend your time building your own EV, or should that time be spent working a second job to buy solar panels, or should you be going door to door at night smashing out unnecessary automatic lights, or should you be making your own mozzeralla cheese so it doesn't have to be trucked to you? If that is, in fact, your question, I think it is a very worthy one.

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Vinnie - my question was more aimed at what should our government and policy makers be focused on. However, I like your much more personal/grass roots question.

Now, how come you didn't provide an answer? ;-)

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Quote:

Now, how come you didn't provide an answer?

Maybe he doesn't want to admit to running around at night busting peoples outdoor lights?

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Hi,
More great discussion. Vinnie wrote:

Quote:

John, if I understand your question clearly, you are wondering what aspects of human impact on climate change are more important to address first? I think it is a matter of assessing what we can actually control as individuals and where the biggest reward for your output lies.

I too asked this question many times. After not coming up with many great answers for a long time, I finally hit upon something, and this is why Cycle9 exists. I figured that since I know a lot about electric bikes and other "practical bikes," and since most of these technologies are not readily accessible locally (all our bike shops focus on "sport" bikes), that I needed to do something about it. So with another family member, we decided to bring practical bikes to the local area, that people can see, feel, touch, ride, and have a support resource for. I don't need another job - my "day job" is more than full time as it is. But, at least I feel like I'm being a small part of the solution, rather than just being part of the problem...

Morgan

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Quote:
Quote:

John, if I understand your question clearly, you are wondering what aspects of human impact on climate change are more important to address first? I think it is a matter of assessing what we can actually control as individuals and where the biggest reward for your output lies.

I too asked this question many times. After not coming up with many great answers for a long time, I finally hit upon something, and this is why Cycle9 exists. I figured that since I know a lot about electric bikes and other "practical bikes," and since most of these technologies are not readily accessible locally (all our bike shops focus on "sport" bikes), that I needed to do something about it. So with another family member, we decided to bring practical bikes to the local area, that people can see, feel, touch, ride, and have a support resource for.

Morgan, I hope you realize how wise this is.

There's a question here of passion. What are you or I or anybody else passionate about? I've heard dozens of stories where someone gets passionate about a specific thing, works on that thing, works on it some more, keeps working on it, and they make some kind of significant change regarding that thing. The latest story I heard along these lines was a white man who moved to a small town in Texas and came to realize the black people in that town were getting the shaft legal-wise, with longer sentences than average etc. It struck him as wrong, ticked him off, and he worked on it and built a movement to address the problem. He had a passion for, I suppose, fairness and that passion drove him.

Each of us have passion that resonates with different things. And I've seen over and over inside myself, that each situation I get into draws out of me a response suited to that situation, and that the response is reflective of something to do with who I am.

We all can look at this situation - and each of us can choose a different response - and that's great because we each resonate with different things. Even usatracy with his scoffing that we're all nuts, he's part of this too, and his response to this situation is appropriate to how he resonates with it.

My version is ...

First, I began with this concern in the 1970's. I was in high school bracketed by the two fake oil crises of the 1970's. Those oil crises really impressed me deeply. I remember pouring over car reviews in Consumer Reports looking more at the miles/gallon than any other aspect of the cars. And there was a couple years where I wanted to work in solar energy research and was reading a lot about solar energy technology. However I ended up with computer science as my degree, and doing software engineering work. Most importantly I began doing work with the Internet in 1986 (?1987??) and Usenet (in 1985) and I have around 20 years work experience with Internet technologies, Internet protocols, and communal connections between people through the Internet.

Around 7 years ago I had this realization that I could put those skills to use in social change. I felt ever so strongly that if people could talk with each other about the problems they're facing - that if people around the world could talk with each other - that would help us all understand each other more completely, and that ought to help us solve our problems more equitably. And that for those people interested in topics like EV's where they find very few compatriots in their neighborhood -- the Internet can help those people connect from wherever they live, and find support and comradeship.

So, uh, let's see, uh, that might have something to do with why I've spent so much time building this web site ...

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Dave,

I know perhaps this isn't the place for this comment, but could you set up this forum so all the previous discussion can be scrolled up to while typing a comment?

John, I was just asking because I thought, living in Ann Arbor, you might be a science or engineering faculty at U. of Michigan or something - maybe a CE.

It has always been a pet-peeve of mine (and most other CE's) that civil engineers go through at least as rigorous a education/internship/state licensure process as MD's or lawyers, yet they seem to get little respect (and often, even a livable salary) in the United States. The result is a serious shortage of competent civil engineers in the US, crumbling public infrastructure, and things like New Orleans, and the Minneapolis bridge disasters. Ultimately, the problem is the neoliberal (look it up if you have to) aversion to the word "public".

Now I promise to get back to the topic.

I agree that compartmentalization of the science disciplines is quite a serious problem.

I also see an odd conflation of the negative (carbon emitting) aspect of "modernity" with the positive ones - leading to the annoying accusation that we are proposing some kind of return to the medieval ages or some other more primitive state.

Even here in this forum, we tend to assume the personal automobile to be some kind of sacrosanct aspect of modern cities. So, we focus on electrifying cars, or the use or smaller two wheel electric vehicles as a solution to their CO2 emissions. But, from a civil engineer's perspective, the current, sprawling infrastructure needed to support suburban "car-culture" is stupendously inefficient and costly compared to a 24/7 public transit system serving compact, walkable neighborhoods. It would be almost be a trivial task to design cities where a car isn't needed at all - as cities were in fact designed up until 70 years ago. It was powerful economic interests - those of auto manufacturers and RE developers - not considerations of efficiency or even quality of life, that created such vast areas where a car (or even e-bicycle) is needed for even simple errands.

In fact, my entire interest in electric vehicles largely only arose three years ago, because my job moved out from the city - where I hardly ever needed anything but my legs or the bus or trolley, to a suburban location where I was no longer able to use public transportation for commuting, but didn't want to return to spewing CO2 either.

Yet, when I suggest the idea of moving to a car-free community infrastructure. I have had people say things like "so are you for going back to the days of people shivering in winter and dying by the age of 50 too?" (I really have-no kidding) We are so immersed in the milieu of the automobile and the incredibly inefficient suburban infrastructure it spawned, that a peculiar conflation of it with everything else "modern" occurs. Yet, I can't think of anything more George-Jetsonesque than a clean quiet, car free city where the loudest noise would be that of children playing.

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

To answer Vinnie's question on personal action - somewhat like Morgan my choice is to become an EV evangelist. It allows me to do what I like doing - tinkering with stuff, especially stuff with wheels. It also assuages my guilt over still liking auto-racing and fast cars and fast motorbikes. Hey, at least I don't like, nor aspire to own, a honkin' great SUV. :-)

I'm hopeful that as EVs get more available and the buying experience becomes more in line with gas equivalents that many families will choose an EV as their second vehicle. There's a lot of social change and acceptance that needs to happen for that to occur - hence being an EV evangelist is the route I chose(I'm currently concentrating more on walking the walk before talking the talk).

I agree with Paul's perspective about urban planning. One of the reasons I'm in Ann Arbor is because when I first came to the US I looked for a place with a walkable downtown - I didn't want to end up in a bedroom community. Ann Arbor is pretty compact (although, like most places, is of course sprawling somewhat)

Public transport in most of the US sucks - and was left to die (or in some instances actively killed) because there was more money to be made with personal transportation. The same can be said about long haul trucking. Why a country the size of the US with such a complex set of commercial distribution logistics has such a relatively crappy rail system is beyond me (that's from a logical and policy making stand point - I'm well aware of the lobbying).

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vinnie
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Quote:

Why a country the size of the US with such a complex set of commercial distribution logistics has such a relatively crappy rail system is beyond me (that's from a logical and policy making stand point - I'm well aware of the lobbying).

Isn't this a function of Roosevelt's "New Deal"? If so, then employing people to build roads was part of what got the United States out of the Great Depression. The US road system makes a lot of sense and definitely adds to the quality of life for many citizens, unfortunately it seems to have come at the cost of quality public transportation and rail shipping.

I think I said before how much I like the idea of "Think Globally, Act Locally." To me, that is the only way to keep my sanity. Besides, I think it would be hard to smash out automatic lights on a global level by myself. ;)

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

vinnie_basile wrote:
Quote:

Why a country the size of the US with such a complex set of commercial distribution logistics has such a relatively crappy rail system is beyond me (that's from a logical and policy making stand point - I'm well aware of the lobbying).

Isn't this a function of Roosevelt's "New Deal"?

No, I don't think so. I'm all for a good road system - but I don't see why having a good road system should negate the value of a good rail system.

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

Quote:

I don't see why having a good road system should negate the value of a good rail system

Yes, that is true, isn't it...hmm, was there a time when it became much cheaper to ship via truck than train?

Along those lines, I did notice that Amtrak has had increased ridership lately. I believe it was mentioned before that hittin 'em in the wallet would get some results. Perhaps this is one result of that "hit".

It is hard not to visit family and friends that are far away...or to budget 3 days on a train each way to see people.

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octo
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Re: An interesting Global Warming ....

Hi David

Terrific video, and a great approach and attitude to the problem. Thanks for telling me about it.

Brian Delaney

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Re: An interesting Global Warming ..er.. Global Climate Destabil

From what I have read and heard about the Interstate Highways was one reason they were built was for national defense. Once they were built people took advantage of them for transportation of everything. Now if the highways were never built, we would probably have a more centralized society with public transportation.

I'm really glad the highway system is there, it may not be as efficient as having people highly concentrated into small areas with public transportation connecting them, but it's extremely good at allowing people to choose where they want to live.

I recently talked to friend that used to live in Japan, that is one of the things she hated about it, no space to breathe.

Deron.

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