Speedy Delivery is Harming the Planet

created Jun 21, 2019

This reminds me of Mike Monteiro's 2019 book Ruined by Design. These harmful environmental actions are occurring by design.

People shop a lot online, and since we are an impatient society, we need the products delivered immediately for some reason. I think that all of this increases the amount of shopping that we do. We consume more.

Products delivered to stores and us driving to stores consume fossil fuels too. Shopping at physical stores requires more of our personal time, and in my opinion, that "barrier" prevents us from buying as much as we would by shopping online. Many people consider shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to be an inconvenience. That's a barrier to less consumption, possibly.

Once or twice a year, I might buy books online, and that's the extent of my online shopping. Thus far in 2019, my online shopping has consisted of buying two books about design from Amazon.com, and I bought a pair of fleece combs from a small business owner. The combs align the fibers of longwool sheep fleece prior to spinning the fleece into yarn.

I do not have Amazon Prime. I don't need next day nor two-day shipping. On the rare occasions that I do shop at Amazon, I choose the slowest and cheapest shipping method, and I still receive the items in two to four days.

I use Amazon mainly to buy books. I have never needed a book the next day. If it took a month to ship the books, that would be fine with me. And yes, I like to read printed books, especially if they are large art books. When I read non-fiction tech-related books, I like the mark the books up with a red pen. I rarely read fiction because the real world is interesting enough if we took the time to observe it.

Jun 21, 2019 - axios.com - The climate stakes of speedy delivery

With its acceleration of Prime shipping from two days to one, Amazon established a new normal. Soon after, Walmart and Target came out with their own super-speedy shipping options.

Why it matters: Flying, trucking and delivering millions of packages a day comes with a cost — as shoppers demand faster and faster speed, there has been a sharp environmental impact.

The big picture: Consumers have gotten hooked on speed — and the efficiencies that e-commerce injected into retail are getting erased because now there are * more deliveries of smaller numbers of packages.*

That last observation is a biggie. Shop on a Sunday, receive the item by Tuesday. Shop more on Monday, which requires another delivery that arrives on Wednesday. Wasteful.

With this trend, emissions have grown:

The annual sustainability report from UPS, one of the biggest enablers of the e-commerce boom, says it emitted 13.8 million metric tonnes of CO2 while delivering 5.1 billion packages in 2017, by ground and air.

Emissions from FedEx, the other major shipper, were 15.1 million metric tonnes in 2017. The U.S. Postal Service emitted about 4.3 million metric tonnes of CO2 in 2016. (Numbers from both include all mail, including e-commerce and personal packages and letters.)

Together, that's equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of just over 7 million cars, per an EPA calculator. It's almost the combined total number of cars in the states of Illinois and Tennessee. It's also about 0.5% of the total 6 billion metric tonnes of U.S. CO2 emissions per year. That's "not huge, but it's big. And it's growing," says Costa Samaras of Carnegie Mellon University.

That's actually much smaller, relatively speaking, than I imagined. But I assume that the total emissions due to home delivery has increased dramatically, since the year 2000. We have seen huge expansions in the hubs for FedEx and UPS here in the Toledo area over the past 15 years.

On top of UPS, USPS and FedEx, many other players in parcel delivery — including Amazon itself — are adding to the total impact.

"Nobody is looking at the environmental footprint of being consumers with all of this convenience" — Beth Davis-Sramek, professor of logistics, Auburn University

Mass consumerism will continue to harm the planet. It's what we do best. Buy. Consume. Go into debt. It's easy to do because we hold small computers in hands.

I have never bought anything at Amazon.com by using a mobile device. If I shop online, I use a desktop or laptop computer.

The smartphone provides many conveniences while also creating many annoyances.

More from the Axios story:

The backdrop: In theory, e-commerce is good for the environment, says Don Mackenzie, who leads the University of Washington's Sustainable Transportation Lab. Instead of a neighborhood worth of people driving to stores in their personal cars to shop, one truck can deliver everything. But that calculus is changing.

That seems debatable as I mentioned above. BTW, our Franklin Park Mall, located in West Toledo, and the outdoor Mall at Levis Commons, located in the suburb of Perrysburg remain extremely busy. People are STILL driving to stores to buy products that were shipped by plane and/or truck. People still shop at area Walmart and Target stores and at the many other chain and local stores. But I contend that driving is a barrier to shopping for unnecessary things, which reduces how much we buy and how much needs delivered to stores.

The key is to buy less, much, much less, regardless of how the shopping occurs.

"There are climate benefits to e-commerce, but those disappear as delivery gets faster and faster," says Miguel Jaller, a professor at UC Davis. "It goes against everything they have been achieving in terms of efficiency."

Amazon started it with Prime, which offers free shipping on 100 million products, whether you order a cartful of things or just one box of tissues. Amazon's retail rivals, Target and Walmart, have done the same:

This leads to a loss in green space that could support farming or native plants with that latter supporting local insects and birds.

The increasing warehouse space required to support the barrage of orders also has an impact.

E-commerce companies are building more and more warehouses, particularly on the outskirts of cities, so they can cut delivery times to a few hours. About 255 million square feet of warehouse space is under construction in the U.S., per a new CBRE report — and all of it needs light, heat and air conditioning, notes CMU's Samaras.

And there's more: The packing material that goes into delivery boxes is a major driver of the global plastics crisis, says Axios energy columnist Amy Harder.

There are ways to curb e-commerce's hit to the environment.

Drone delivery uses less energy than vehicles, Samaras tells Axios. "They're super-light and charged by electricity, and electricity is getting cleaner." Both Amazon and Walmart have filed a slew of drone patents.

And how many years will it take to replace the army of FedEx and UPS trucks with drones? I'm not talking about replacing a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of all deliveries. When will ALL deliveries be conducted by drones?

Jun 17, 2019 - axios.com - Walmart, Amazon, and the drone delivery wars

What about other types of transportation?

Jun 20, 2019 - axios.com - Uber's one-stop plan for transportation

Because of the climate change crisis, it seems that Uber is a company that environmentalists would want to fail. What Uber represents is anti-nature. We should travel by air and auto less. We should shop less. Uber represents more.

Jun 20, 2019 - apnews.com - Climate of guilt: Flying no longer the high road for some

School’s out for summer and Swedish lawyer Pia Bjorstrand, her husband and their two sons are shouldering backpacks, ready to board the first of many trains on a whistle-stop vacation around northern Europe.

The family is part of a small but growing movement in Europe and North America that’s shunning air travel because it produces high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. While experts say fighting climate change will require bigger and bolder actions by governments around the world, some people are doing what they can to help, including changing long-held travel habits.

The experts do not want to change their standard of living. The experts do not want individual responsibility to be a part of the solution.

If we are truly concerned, then we should not wait for big and bold governmental actions. We should strive to live in ways that match our concerns.

Jun 3, 2019 - nytimes.com - If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?

Is that a legitimate question? If so, then the answer might not be like the Amish, but maybe the answer should lean more toward the Amish and less away from how we have lived in the past and how we would like to live now, assuming that the concern about humans negatively impacting our climate is real.

Complaining without making real changes seems like hypocrisy. We should back up the talk with our individual actions. If that means we don't travel and shop like family and friends, so what? Live by example, assuming that our concern is real and not phony.

From the NY Times opinion:

In the age of global warming, traveling — by plane, boat or car — is a fraught choice. And yet the world beckons.

The glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, Miami Beach is slowly going under.

Quick, says a voice in your head, go see them before they disappear! You are evil, says another voice. For you are hastening their destruction.

Travel is great, but have all of us truly seen everything near our home? I could be satisfied by observing only that which exists within a five mile walking radius of our home, which is probably why I have not traveled much in my life. Since I like nature, then I'm fine studying our local flora and fauna.

More from the opinion:

To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times. Something that seemed like pure escape and adventure has become double-edged, harmful, the epitome of selfish consumption. Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

And yet we fly more and more.

In October 2017, I visited London. That was my first trip to Europe.

The number of airline passengers worldwide has more than doubled since 2003, and unlike with some other pollution sources, there’s not a ton that can be done right now to make flying significantly greener — electrified jets are not coming to an airport near you anytime soon.

This next sentence is bizarre:

It is hard to think about climate change in relation to our own behavior.

WTF? Then why has human-initiated and/or human-accelerated global warming been a popular story in the media for the last 20 years or more? It's about OUR behavior and standard living. Holy hell.

Each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent — your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3 square meters, or 32 square feet, the authors, Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, found.

Here we go ...

In 2005, a Dartmouth professor, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, wrote in a journal article provocatively titled “It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations” that he was under no moral obligation to refrain from taking a gas-guzzling S.U.V. for a Sunday afternoon joy ride if he felt like doing so.

“No storms or floods or droughts or heat waves can be traced to my individual act of driving,” he wrote. Conversely, “If I refrain from driving for fun on this one Sunday, there is no individual who will be helped in the least.”

Other philosophers questioned his reasoning.

Professor John Nolt of the University of Tennessee took a stab at measuring the damage done by one average American’s lifetime emissions. (The average American generates about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, more than triple the global average.)

Cruise ships as alternatives? Nope. Not if we are truly concerned about the environment.

Bryan Comer, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research group, told me that even the most efficient cruise ships emit 3 to 4 times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet.

Naturally, the writer suggests the conscience-clearing scam known as carbon offsets, which do nothing, since the fossil fuels were used, which means demand needs to be met to replace the fuels used. Planting trees should be done regardless.

Carbon offsets are an ethical offset sham. It allows privileged people to buy a clear conscience and to maintain their high standard of living while yelling to the world that something needs to be done to avert a climate catastrophe. The carbon offset sham eliminates personal responsibility.

Not flying at all would be better, Mr. Miller said, “but the reality is that there’s lots of folks that are going to do what they’re going to do.” For them, offsets are a lot better than nothing.

No, it's not. Nothing as in not flying is better. Flying and pretending to care by buying carbon offsets do nothing, since the fossil fuel-based energy was still consumed. That's not conservation. That's consumption.

In theory, a privileged person can have a lower carbon footprint than a homeless person, thanks to the carbon offset guilt sham.

More from the opinion:

But some climate experts call offsets a cop-out.

“It’s like paying someone else to diet for you,” said Alice Larkin of the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who has not flown since 2008.

She said that while governments do need to take tough action, they derive their courage to do so from the conduct of citizens. “In my idea, people move first,” she said.

Offsets, she said, encourage a break-even mind-set when what’s needed to avert disaster is to slash fossil-fuel consumption immediately.

If the concern was real, then people would change their lifestyles significantly, which would get the attention of big businesses and governments.

Why is that revolutions are based upon individuals, but when it comes to the climate crisis, many believe that individual actions are pointless?

Her colleague Kevin Anderson says that when you buy a ticket you’re not buying just a seat on a plane. You’re telling the aviation industry to run more flights, build more jets, expand more airports.

And you're telling someone to produce more fuel for the planes.

“Offsetting, on all scales, weakens present-day drivers for change and reduces innovation towards a lower-carbon future,” Professor Anderson wrote in 2012. Lately, a grassroots anti-flying movement has been gathering momentum in Europe, particularly Scandinavia.

And here's the reality.

I’d like to be able to tell you that knowing what I’ve learned reporting this piece, I have sworn off long-distance travel.

But actually this summer, we’re going to Greece, with a stopover in Paris. Carbon footprint of plane tickets: 10.6 metric tons, enough to melt a small-apartment-sized piece of the Arctic.

We might fly to London again this fall.

The opinion writer said that he would partake in an offset scam, obviously to justify his vacation travel, which means that if he is concerned about climate change, then it's a fraudulent concern.

Jun 18, 2019 - axios.com - The persistence of fossil fuel subsidies

Jun 23, 2019 Hacker News thread titled Cement Produces More Pollution Than All the Trucks in the World (bloomberg.com)

Brilliant comment from that thread:

Telling a lie then saying 3 Hail Marys means you are forgiven for the lie, it doesn't fix the lie.

As such, planting a tree to be forgiven for going on a flight that burns carbon-laden jet fuel doesn't fix what you did.

Fossil fuels are excess carbon atoms sequestered safely deep inside the Earth. Unless you can find a way to put them back there, there's no fixing the situation. Planting a tree does capture carbon. However, when it dies and rots, all the carbon gets re-released over time back into the atmosphere. If you burn that wood, it happens much more quickly.

The only way to fix this problem is to stop using fossil fuels. There is no politically viable way for this to happen. The only way this is happening is if the planet gets depopulated of humans rapidly.

Or we can take personal responsibility, instead of waiting for government actions, and change our lifestyles significantly. The problem with this idea is that many people view these dramatic lifestyle changes as lowering their standard of living, which is why they partake in the carbon offset conscience-clearing scam.

Jul 17, 2019

Jeff Bezos: I spend my billions on space because we're destroying Earth

The irony is rich that's spewed from a genius, wealthy dumbass.

Bezos created a business that contributes to the demise of the planet.