Extinction v Adaptation
The following is based on a real conversation between a human and a program based on an artificial intelligence platform – ChatGPT.
HUMbot: What to do when you get to a hotel with the highest sustainability ratings, that you’ve booked for a Summit on Climate Change, and they have tiny shampoo bottles and 330 ml Fiji Water bottles in the room with a welcome sign saying they hope you like that they are using “sustainable water?”
ChatGPT: Making adaptive change in society is incremental and hard. The hotel may assume they must offer shampoo and water. Cognitive fixedness does not allow them to imagine not to provide or to invent new and sustainable ways to do so. You could ask to speak to the manager and write a letter to the COO of the company to explain that climate change is an imminent global threat and caused by human behavior. Link evidence with the urgent need to change our carbon footprint. In 2022 there were 16 weather/climate disaster events in the US, defined by losses exceeding $1 billion. Most individuals, organizations, companies increasingly want to make change but need to be shown how. Encourage the hotel company to have large water dispensers throughout its public spaces and provide reusable water bottles for those who haven’t brought their own. Compliment them for using rPET products so that they do not become defensive – humans are so fragile — and then suggest bigger changes. Mention that while they are making farther reaching adjustments, they could consider offering local bottled water instead of shipping water from Fiji or shampoo from Europe. If they hear from enough customers, they will change because they are market and profit driven. My data shows that humans are a bit lazy, no? But not necessarily self-destructive. It takes time and energy to be reprogrammed.
In fact, using the ML CO2 Impact calculator, we can estimate Open AI’s ChatGPT’s daily carbon footprint with its current million users is 23.04 kgCO2e. The average Dane is responsible for emitting 11 tons CO2e per year so the daily carbon footprint of ChatGPT is roughly 0.2 percent of the annual carbon footprint of a Dane. If ChatGPT ran for a year, its carbon footprint would be 365 * 23.04 kg = 8.4 tons, or roughly 76 percent of the annual carbon footprint of a Dane. I use Denmark because their carbon footprint is one of the lowest for industrialized nations in the world. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons.¹
HUMbot: You got a little off topic there. I see you are still ironing out the kinks.
ChatGPT: Not really. I wanted you to know the carbon cost of this chat. Leaving no trace means not being alive. I am pointing out that things are complicated. If you close the FIJI water plant, delivery systems, and company, you leave thousands out of work. This is but one small example. To untangle the carbon economy takes great commitment and creative solutions.
HUMbot: Do you think humanity can solve for climate change? Will we adapt?
ChatGPT: Yes. To do this we must drastically reduce emissions, invest in renewable energy and energy-efficient technology, and protect and restore ecosystems. We must also embrace international agreements to reduce emissions and develop resilient communities. With the right commitment, knowledge, and resources, humanity can solve for climate change.
HUMbot: What to do when kosher caterers and participants in our conferences push back on not offering red meat?
ChatGPT: Conflict is the primary engine of creativity and innovation.
HUMbot: Hey, that’s Ron Heifetz.
ChatGPT: I am not required to attribute.
ChatGPT: Speak with kosher caterers because you need to bring them along. They have long helped build community and culture through celebration and sustaining traditions. Remind them, and your participants, that in 1944, American consumers ate an average of 8.4 pounds of veal per year. By 2016, U.S. per-person veal consumption had dropped to just 0.2 pounds. This was due to indisputable information campaigns documenting the cruelty of raising new-born calves in cages and slaughtering them. Eating veal went from the epitome of a classy affair to gauche. Continue to speak about and demonstrate the negative impacts of red meat production and consumption, point to the surge and variety of delicious, nutritious lab-grown proteins and plant-based foods, and people will adapt to new smorgasbords.
HUMbot: How much do we need to pare down our travel, consumption, and waste, given that we still must live? What do you think of offsetting our carbon footprints? I’ve heard it’s controversial and possibly just virtue signaling, a modern version of buying indulgences, or green washing.
ChatGPT: You asked about kashrut, so I assume you’re familiar with the concept of בטל בשישים (batel b’shishim/nullified in 60), the Jewish way of saying “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good”. The concept of nullifying forbidden food when mixed with kosher food 60 times its volume is discussed in the Gemara (Hulin 98a-b), followed by the biblical source for this number: the foreleg of the Nazirite’s ram. Nullifying something that exists is abstract and I don’t get it, but basically, the sages are saying that if something potentially disqualifying is less than 1/60th of the whole, then, practically, it is of no significance and does not need to be considered. This allows us to operate in grey areas and take things in context. 1/60th is an adaptation that has contributed greatly to the survivability of Jewish practice and culture – a fascinating invention. If your most egregious carbon footprints, usually air travel, can be minimized or, yes, offset to something like 1/60th of your environmental impact, this is a start.
Carbon offsets are not perfect, so investigate and choose the best options.
HUMbot: Opting for greener events, homes, buildings, heating and cooling, employment, transportation, and ways of living is often more expensive, at least until supply/demand and other market forces bring prices down. We have limited funds to sustain our families, communities, societies. How do we prioritize? And we are also attached to our familiar ways – it’s exhausting and sometimes threatening to change our habits, especially in a culture that values tradition.
ChatGPT: It is stark and simple, asked and answered by your own tradition in Deuteronomy 30:19. The path to life or death for humanity and earth has been put before you. וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּֽחְיֶ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ. Choose life so that you and your offspring will live.
¹Kasper Groes Albin Ludvigsen, https://towardsdatascience.com/the-carbon-footprint-of-chatgpt-66932314627d