Author Archives: Keith Akers

Herman Daly (1938 – 2022)

Herman Daly passed away on October 28. He was one of the founders of the “ecological economics” school of thought. The big contribution of Herman Daly to our knowledge is his explanation of a simple idea: the economy is part of the environment, not vice versa.

To most non-economists, the idea that the human economy is part of our larger world (atmosphere, sun, soil, water, minerals, plants, animals, and people) is common sense. Of course the economy is part of the environment, how could it be otherwise? But sometimes, as Herman Daly remarked, it’s the simplest things that are hardest to understand. If you understand that the economy is part of the environment, then congratulations: you know more about the basis of economics than most economists, including the ones to whom our political leaders look for advice. Continue reading

Debate: Degrowth or Green Growth?

To save the planet, should we seek more economic growth, but just make sure that it respects planetary boundaries (“green growth”)? Or is there no alternative except to decrease total economic activity (“degrowth”)? About two weeks ago there was a fascinating debate on this critical and controversial topic now available on YouTube, which I recommend to everyone interested in what it’s actually going to take to deal with climate change. This is certainly an all-star cast—Jason Hickel, Sam Fankhauser, and Kate Raworth are all committed environmentalists and knowledgeable economists.

What do you think? Please feel free to make comments below. I have a few random thoughts but this isn’t a comprehensive analysis of the debate.

Continue reading

Jesus and Animal Sacrifice

Jesus in the temple (Greco) – public domain image

As we approach Easter, it is worth reminding everyone why Jesus was killed: because of his opposition to animal sacrifice.

This opposition led him to go into the temple and disrupt the animal sacrifice business. Shortly thereafter he was crucified by the Romans, doubtless because of his actions in the temple. Christians often remember the incident in the temple as “Jesus drives out the dishonest money changers,” but it is clear from both the gospels as well as the history of Christianity that the money changers had little to do with it. It is one of the few incidents in Jesus’ life that is found in all four gospels (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-17). Continue reading

Fish stories about Pythagoras and Jesus

Pythagoras and the Fishermen, by Salvator Rosa. Public domain image.

Whenever I discuss Jesus’ vegetarianism, one of the most frequent questions I get concerns the “fish stories” in the New Testament—stories where Jesus is depicted calling fishermen as disciples, serving fish to the 5000, miraculously helping the disciples catch fish, or in one case actually eating fish. The problem with these stories, which I’ve explained elsewhere, is that they are all stories fairly obviously added many decades after Jesus’ life by people who never knew Jesus personally. As evidence of an actual historical event in Jesus’ life, they are worthless.

What most people don’t know is that there is also a fish story about Pythagoras, which strongly resembles the “miraculous catch of fish” stories told about Jesus. What is especially interesting is that these stories about Jesus seem to be copied from the story about Pythagoras—but with the ending completely changed. Continue reading

Why divestiture?

One of the more interesting ideas for climate action is the idea of divesting in fossil fuels. If investing in fossil fuels stops or declines, fossil fuel industries will lose money and go out of business, and fewer fossil fuels will be burned. A number of groups and individuals have suggested this strategy.

This is actually an interesting idea because it represents something concrete that we can do. But how is this strategy supposed to work? If we are successful, what does this look like? Continue reading

Compassion Consortium conversation

UPDATE Jan. 6, 2022: the replay of my conversation with Victoria Moran has been posted here. The interview part goes from about 25:07 to 48:32 (starting with an introduction by Victoria).

I’ll be the guest speaker at the Compassion Consortium online service on Sunday, December 26. The service will be at 4 pm Eastern time (= 1 pm Pacific = 2 pm Mountain = 3 pm Central) via Zoom, and last 90 minutes; the conversation with me will be about 15 or 20 minutes.

Topics will likely include my research on early Christianity, why the historical Jesus was vegetarian, and why this matters today. If you want to hear me, you can register for the service here. (You have to order “tickets,” but they’re free.) If you miss the service, there is often a replay of past services on their web site. Continue reading

“Code red for humanity” — what does this even mean?

The High Park Wildfire burns on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland on June 10, 2012. U. S. Forest Service photo (public domain).

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, says that the latest IPCC report is “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable.” Of course, this is not news for many of us. How should we react to this?

Climate is a well-discussed problem, with a variety of “climate action plans” and a variety of climate groups to choose from. You’d think that we’d have action by now! Why is climate, despite all the attention it has gotten, such a difficult subject? Continue reading

Life After Fossil Fuels — review

Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy. Alice J. Friedemann. Lecture Notes in Energy 81. Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2021.

Most people assume that when fossil fuel use ends, we will probably be living with different types of renewable energy, mostly wind turbines and solar power. Allow Alice Friedemann (engineer, architect, and creator of EnergySkeptic.com), to puncture a few of your illusions.

I loved this book. Probably not everyone will be as nerdy about energy issues as I am, but for me it was just what the doctor ordered. Realistic, humorous, objective, this book is oddly hopeful in an apocalyptic sort of way. Alice Friedemann shows us that there is life after fossil fuels, even after the failure of all our dreams about alternative energy, and as industrial civilization crashes down around us. Continue reading

Less is More — review

Less is More. How Degrowth Will Save the World. Jason Hickel. Windmill Books, 2020.

Less is More is an important book that seeks to popularize the idea of economic “degrowth,” though it is somewhat flawed in significant details. Degrowth is a deliberate attempt to reduce the physical size of the economy — for example, we should prefer bicycles to cars, and plant foods to animal foods. Degrowth is widely discussed in Europe, where the idea originated. In America, the “heart” of the capitalist beast, it is still a relatively unknown idea.

Jason Hickel is right on his key point in this book. Our economy is already massively unsustainable. If human civilization is to have a future, we cannot continue with the growth economy. This should be the starting point of any discussion about the environment. Continue reading

“Livestock and Climate Change” – part 4 (video)

Here are three concluding thoughts (strictly my own opinions) about the reception and impact of “Livestock and Climate Change,” by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang. It’s my opinion that the FAO is now dominated by the livestock industry, that “Livestock and Climate Change” represents only a minimum estimate of greenhouse gases due to livestock agriculture, and that we shouldn’t get distracted by the 51% figure.

“Livestock and Climate Change” – part 1 (video)

“Livestock and Climate Change,” by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, was published in WorldWatch in 2009, and stated that 51% of all anthropogenic greenhouse emissions come from livestock. This is one of the most significant articles written on global warming, even though at this point it’s over a decade old. Many people, including me, have found the article a bit dense to understand, even though as vegans we have an obvious interest in its conclusions. Goodland and Anhang make five points in their article, and this video explains points 1 and 2: overlooked respiration by livestock and overlooked land use.