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A Close Shave with Occam’s Razor


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A Close Shave with Occam’s Razor

Commentary by Pete Haug | FāVS News

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Occam’s Razor comes in many models, some sharper than others. It’s actually an aphorism tweaked by a number of philosophers dating from Aristotle: “The simplest explanation is usually the best.”

For example, global climate change is simple. Two things drive it: population, energy. All else links back to these two drivers.


In the mid-1930s, world population was estimated at 2.2 billion. Current estimates range from 6.9 to 13.1 billion, with Worldometer’s Population Clock ticking toward 8.1 billion. Simple math reveals an increase of nearly 370% in about 90 years. Current projections are for 11+ billion humans by 2100.

Where are the resources to feed, clothe, house and otherwise support folks alive today, never mind those living in 2100? The answer lies in energy required to grow food, manufacture goods, construct buildings, transport people, provide health care and so on.

Ironically, energy is partly to blame for our burgeoning population. Had energy not been cheap, we’d have fewer people. Instead we have a positive feedback loop of more people requiring more cheap energy, etc.

Climate Change

Climate change was first identified as atmospheric warming produced by CO2 shortly after the industrial revolution. The interlinked problems associated with energy-based industrialization, agriculturalization, resource depletion, environmental pollution and greenhouse gases all stem from demands of a growing population.

China understood this in 1980 when, to protect itself, it instituted a draconian one-child policy that resulted in a surplus of males because women weren’t highly prized. Besides causing untold human suffering for four decades, that failed policy is now reaping an economic and social whirlwind.

Population control depends primarily on women, not government. Willingly or not, women bear the brunt of bearing children. Even at conception, man’s contribution is tiny; after fertilization, everything depends on the woman.

So why not empower women to choose, to control decisions about their childbearing? Our highly-educated Western world still prevents women from rising to their full potential. How much more repressive to women are less “developed” societies?

Educated women are better equipped to control all aspects of their lives. Women are the first educators of their children. Educate mom, then prioritize education of girls over boys if schooling everyone is impossible.

Studies demonstrate the longer girls are schooled, the fewer children they have, a strong “negative relationship” across “developed and developing countries.” For reasons too numerous to explore here, besides bringing world population under control, educating women is a no-brainer.

On Energy Addiction

Less simple is the Gordian knot posed by our addiction to energy. The problem is solvable but, more than population, it’s subject to national, political, religious and other volatile forces that militate against a solution.

Modern agriculture depends on fossil resources for fertilizers, pesticides, machinery and transportation. Food production comprises 17% of total U.S. fossil fuel use. Our meat-based society requires, on average, 25 fossil fuel calories to produce a single calorie of meat, at ratios ranging from 4-to-1 for broilers and up to 57-to-1 for lamb.

Pollution is another example. Fossil energy produces residue not only as emissions, but also as petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastics and non-recyclable trash. So what can we do? How can we mobilize individuals, organizations, and nations to wean themselves, with minimal economic impact, from this addiction?

This is Not News.

Earth Day, an event to “increase public awareness of the world’s environmental problems,” was first observed in 1970. Do the math.

For half a century, religious organizations from disparate faiths, philanthropic foundations, international agencies, entrepreneurs and grassroots individuals have tried, without real success, to address the multifaceted environmental problems best summed up by climate change.

The Real Problem

The real problem is not environmental, resource depletion, population, pollution or any of the myriad components of climate change. The real problem is the zero-sum mentality driving our global economic, social, political and even sports systems: Winning is not the most important thing; it’s the only thing, here and now, with no thought of future consequences..

It’s all around us: Resurgence of far-right philosophies reminiscent of the Third Reich, and all it represented; never-before-seen accumulations of extreme wealth; continued repression of impoverished minorities; suppression of social outcasts, beginning with book-banning — the list is unending. 


There is hope, but not much time. I hope the extreme heat experienced over much of the planet this summer has the attention of enlightened decisionmakers capable of making the necessary decisions. Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have amassed 35 years of analysis and guidance, much of which Earth’s governments have ignored. What more will it take?

One Earth, one changing climate.

Reversing that change promises to be a close shave.

Pete Haug
Pete Haug
Pete plunged into journalism fresh out of college, putting his English literature degree to use for five years. He started in industrial and academic public relations, edited a rural weekly and reported for a metropolitan daily, abandoning all for graduate school. He finished with an M.S. in wildlife biology and a Ph.D. in systems ecology. After teaching college briefly, he analyzed environmental impacts for federal, state, Native American and private agencies over a couple of decades. His last hurrah was an 11-year gig teaching English in China. After retiring in 2007, he began learning about climate change and fake news, giving talks about both. He started writing columns for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and continues to do so. He first published for favs.news in 2020. Pete’s columns alternate weekly between FāVS and the Daily News. His live-in editor, Jolie, infinitely patient wife for 62 years, scrutinizes all columns with her watchful draconian eye. Both have been Baha’is since the 1960s. Pete’s columns on the Baha’i Faith represent his own understanding and not any official position.


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