An Interview with Mother Earth on Climate Change


Mother Earth shows off a little, the Equator, October 2015

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of making an annual trip to the equator of our planet, spending a week or two absorbing the very different world of South America. One of the unexpected benefits is that I get to converse occasionally with Mother Earth herself.

Of course, we all know her to a certain degree, since She made us from scratch and provides for all of our needs for every second of our lives. But She actually keeps  Her eyes and ears down there, probably because that is where the greatest concentration of living things hang out. The Sun is at its most intense, and there is more biodiversity in a single square kilometer of Amazon rainforest than you’ll find in the entire United States.

So anyway, I ran into Her during a late-night walk through the jungles of Ecuador, and I was pleased that She granted me an interview. With the secret environmental mission of this blog in mind, I decided to focus most of my questions on climate change (global warming), since that is probably the biggest risk we’ll face over the next few generations. The transcript below recounts our conversation.


Mother Earth Speaks up on Climate Change

Mr. Money Mustache: Thanks a lot for the interview, and thanks for everything you do. Your fine bounty is really what makes life worth living, for all of us.

Mother Earth: No problem, and thanks for caring. Since all living things are really just rearrangements of my own atoms, you are all my children, and thus my own reason for living as well.

MMM: So, how do you feel about all the damage we humans have been inflicting upon you in recent centuries? Are we at risk of destroying you?

Earth: (chuckles) Goodness, no! I’m far too big to ever be destroyed, short of being thrown into the Sun. But what you humans do risk, is destroying your own bountiful way of life.

Right now, your prosperity is provided by a plentiful supply of clean air, water, food, and energy. Although some of you like to take all the credit for this, it’s really my ecosystem that does all the hard work: the plants, animals, oceans, air currents, and especially the atmosphere. Without these services, you would lose your ability to create the food and products that form your current prosperity.

And due to your volatile, pissypants nature at times, even a slight drop in resource availability tends to cause major fighting, wars, and dictatorships.

I will be fine either way. And life will always find a way to flourish on my surface. Even some humans will probably continue to exist, since some of you are so damn clever. The question is simply how many billions of you will die in the great adjustment if you mess up the free ride you’re getting right now?

MMM: Sure, that makes sense. But pollution levels have been dropping in the richest countries as we enact better controls and technology. Won’t we eventually clean up our act?

Earth: Pollution is one thing: soot, chemicals, agricultural runoff in streams, radioactive materials. But these things wash away quickly as soon as you stop dumping them onto my surface. So yes, pollution controls have a quick effect on human wellbeing.

But what you’re missing is carbon. As in the surplus of carbon dioxide you’re pumping out through coal power plants, farms, chopping down billions of trees, and all your gas-burning machines. This has the potential to warm shit up around here, with bad results for you. By my odds, you’re already more than half way to emitting enough carbon dioxide to create that serious multi-billion-person disaster. But because it’s an exponential game, you’re within just a decade or two of reaching the end of it.

MMM: Carbon dioxide? But isn’t that a natural part of the environment? We all exhale it, plants inhale it, oceans absorb it, volcanoes belch it, and the concentrations have varied greatly throughout the history of the planet. And your climate has warmed and cooled many times in the past: during your Snowball phase about 650 million years ago, your entire surface, including the oceans and right down to the Equator, was frozen. At other times, there was subtropical vegetation on Antarctica. The first human inhabitation of North America itself was made possible by an ice bridge from Asia, which melted at the end of the recent ice age. Isn’t change just part of the program around here?

Earth: Well, you got part of it right:  Carbon dioxide controls the climate. The difference is how quickly you have cranked it up in the last blink of an eye. In the past, change happened over many thousands or millions of years. Even then, it was catastrophic to many species, killing out some, relocating others, and expanding those who were tough enough to survive and adapt.

In this case, you’ve gone apeshit overnight and are still cranking up the speed. This means a lightning-fast rise in temperature when you think in my time scale – faster than many plants and animals can adapt to. That will take a chunk out of your ecosystem, and remember that the ecosystem is the basis for your nice way of life. Without it, you’re no longer rich. The Ecosystem is the Economy.


MMM: OK, so there is that. But maybe we can use our rapidly advancing technology to compensate. And the temperature thing couldn’t be that bad either, right? I live in Colorado, and a few extra degrees would be nice in the winter so I could plant some Avocado trees in my back yard. In fact, most of your land mass is in the North and fairly far from the equator, such that we might even end up with more productive land if the climate warmed. Canada and Russia are still mostly empty in their Northern reaches.

And what do you say about the naysayers who deny that global warming even exists, generally speaking up every time a bout of unusually cold weather strikes?

Earth: You sound like an oil executive right now. But let’s get things straight: first of all, we call it climate change because the changes are unpredictable and happen in various ways. On average, I am getting warmer. Fast. This means there is more energy in store, which lifts more water vapor from the ocean and pushes it around with stronger winds. Bigger storms, more intense snowfalls and rainfalls, more severe droughts, and just more surprises in general.

As for the warming of previously-frozen areas: this is true: you’ll get more farmland up there in the North. But more farmable land will probably mean even more natural ecosystems being chopped down. Meanwhile, you will also lose a lot of your best stuff down South as it becomes too hot or dry for farming.

And even more importantly, you’ll lose your current coastlines, where the most valuable cities are. Because even a tiny warming of the poles will melt enough ice to raise the entire sea by several feet. There’s enough ice on Greenland alone to raise all the oceans 20 feet. And guess what’s happening to Greenland right now? If you melt even a fraction of my big ice reserves, you will flood out billions of people, which will cause you great expense, famine, and fighting.

MMM: Funny you should mention more intense storms. Two years ago, my city of Longmont, Colorado received 12 inches of rain in a single storm. That’s about the amount of rain we normally get in an entire year. This caused the creek that runs through the town to swell into a giant brown river that swept away several people, washed away bridges and flooded a few hundred houses and businesses. This was a 500-year flood, which means it has never happened since any buildings larger than the teepees of the Native Americans were around. Maybe never at all – nobody knows.

It’s costing us about $175 million to rebuild from that one rainstorm alone, which is roughly $2000 per person, for every person in the city including the babies. I can’t help but wonder what other, better uses we could have put such a huge sum of money to use for. On a worldwide basis, storm damage is increasing rapidly and the cost is in the trillions.

Earth: You got it. Events like hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and your flood will all become much more common as the climate warms. It takes energy to move all that water around, and you’re just storing more energy when you trap heat with the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. And the fancier your cities and houses are, the more expensive it gets when big storms wipe them out.

I can’t help but notice that your greater Miami area, one of the most expensive chunks of seaside infrastructure ever built by humans, sits right at sea level and could be completely underwater within a generation based on current ocean rise.

MMM: Shit.. maybe we had better try to slow down the climate change after all. But we’re more or less addicted to fossil fuels, as they do all the work for us. If we reduce their use, we slow our own economy. What can we do?

Earth: Nonsense! You’re talking in that Exxon voice again. There is enough energy in the sunlight that strikes my surface in an hour, to power your whole seven billion person belching smokestack of a world economy for more than a year. Of course you can’t harvest it all, or even one hundredth of it. But this is about a nine thousand-to-one safety margin, before you even get into any other source of power.

MMM: All right, let me go and run the numbers on this. Maybe there is a way that modern, smartphone-loving, jet-aircraft-flying humans can still achieve peace with our own planet while still maintaining a booming, high-tech economy, bring more prosperity and happier lives to the billion or more people still in deep poverty, and still be able to have just as much fun as we do right now.

Preview: this won’t be hard,  as I can’t help but run these numbers all the time. I have them tattoed on my back and written in crazy man lipstick on my bathroom mirror. So tune in for the next article where we’ll cover how to combine even more wealth with an almost-instantaneous stop to overheating the planet.

  • Stuart March 16, 2016, 11:42 am

    Hi MMM,

    I”m enjoying your secret mission. Just a note on how storms are measured. Calling a storm is a 100 year storm is a way of simplifying that it has a 1% chance of happening in any given year. A 500 year storm has a 0.2% chance of happening in any given year.
    Its unlikely, but you could have two 500 year storms in back to back years, or even in the same year. Climate change does appear to be influencing storms frequency and intensity. So Longmount, CO could see storms of this measure several times before 2516.

  • RH March 16, 2016, 11:45 am

    MMM doesn’t need to do anymore financial articles. He’s already written hundreds of them. Since his ‘stash is growing by hundreds of thousands of whisker$ each year, he can now shift some of the blog articles to more pressing issues like the environment and sustainability. When you are your own boss, you can do whatever you want whenever you want without the authorization from others! :)

  • Rod March 16, 2016, 11:46 am

    The amount of energy coming from the sun isn’t as relevant as the concentration of energy. Fossil fuels provide highly concentrated energy, whereas the sun provides low-grade heat. I don’t think we’ll be able to continue the “modern, smartphone-loving, jet-aircraft-flying” lifestyle without burning carbon. That, however, may be a good thing.

  • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 11:56 am

    And he got there by living a lifestyle that is both good for the environment and his wealth.

  • SHK March 16, 2016, 1:00 pm

    The article leaves you with a strong feeling of “we are doomed’. How can one stay outrageously optimistic as prescribed in the “The Practical Benefits of Outrageous Optimism” post on this blog (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/03/the-practical-benefits-of-outrageous-optimism/)?

  • Karl Hungus March 16, 2016, 1:03 pm

    Being an engineer, mmm, im surprised you havent looked at the numbers enough. Do you know what makes up 90% of GHG? Water vapour. That leaves 10% for CFC’s, methane, and yes, CO2. CO2 makes up 1%. That includes natural CO2! Man Made Co2 is less then .5% of all GHG’s! So are you telling me that .5% is enough to change the entire climate? Even so, you’d have to admit that it at least warrants a discussion. Im a little tired of this “the science is settled” BS when their is such a huge amount of variables.

    • Stephen March 17, 2016, 7:58 am


      To understand the effect of .5% over time one only has to look at fund expense ratios.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 11:54 am

      I believe MMM has mentioned here that he’s a computer engineer, like me, with a degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering.
      Why would that qualify him to be an expert on whether:
      a) The change in CO2 concentrations is .5% of GHG?
      b) How much an imbalance of .5% would alter the climate?

      • Braz March 18, 2016, 7:19 am

        Remember we’re talking climate, not weather. Climate deals with statistical changes in weather over the long term, tens to hundreds of years. Think 0.5% is insignificant, consider this. If a human of stable weight increases his daily caloric intake of 2200 calories by 0.5% (an extra 11 calories a day), he’ll store an extra 11×365=4015 calories in a year or 40,150 calories in 10 years . At 3500 calories per pound, our test subject gained over 11lbs in the 10 years. The 0.5% – not so insignificant when considered over a climate sized time frame.

  • Rachel Hershberg March 16, 2016, 1:22 pm

    I just watched Racing Extinction, after a couple of years of reducing plastic use/composting/recycling as much as possible, and have come to this conclusion:
    It’s too late. The great photographers can create all these green awareness, MMM can generate buzz, but the world economy is too entrenched in oil, the oceans are too polluted, the train is going too fast to stop or change direction in time. The oceans will continue to warm and acidify, and the whole food chain will get completely messed up — and as always happens, the rich will figure out a way pronto to survive, and everyone else will be screwed.
    I am not an expert in economics or science. I just don’t see how we’re going to pull off fixing the environment. Thoughts?

    • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 9:17 pm

      I’m with you Rachel, that’s why I’m working my ass off to get to the 1%.

      • Rachel Hershberg March 17, 2016, 1:28 am

        I sometimes wonder if I’m giving my kids last generation’s tools. I guess time management, study habits etc. are valuable, but what if a basic life skill is going to be something we can’t even conceive of, like fixing a solar car, or setting up an air purifier?

  • Arch March 16, 2016, 3:17 pm

    A revolution in solar power would be fantastic! Especially if it frees us from fossil fuel. If those who are aren’t convinced that it would make any difference to the climate happen to be correct, there would still be many other benefits – for example, to our health (since air pollution is strongly linked to heart disease and lung ailments) and security (sending oil-rich sponsors of terrorism back to the poorhouse could only be a good thing!).

    But isn’t overpopulation the root cause of most of our environmental problems? Isn’t having zero children, or as few as possible, the best thing that anyone can do for the environment?

    It can’t be denied that the world’s human population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, from 3.4 billion in 1966 to 7.4 billion now. If we keep popping out babies at that obscene rate does it even matter whatever else we try to do to preserve the ecosystem? Increased competition for scarce resources, anarchic floods of refugees/migrants, more and more wars… Don’t see how any of that could bode well for the survival of our civilization.

    • Lynne March 16, 2016, 7:43 pm

      We’re not popping out babies at that rate. Not anymore. Go watch one of Hans Rosling’s TED talks – they’re great (and entertaining, too). Our population will continue to increase for a while because there are currently a lot more people in the younger generations than the older ones (so as the older generations die off they are replaced with a new older generation that is larger). But at 9-10 billion, population growth should level off and stabilize as long as the lives of the poorest people of the world continue to improve (which is happening faster than you might think; you don’t hear about it much because good news doesn’t get much media attention). Once people are no longer in extreme poverty they choose not to have as many children. They get access to contraceptives so they can plan their families, and they get access to food and medical care that gives them reasonable certainty that the children they do have will live to adulthood.

      Whether that 9-10 billion is unsustainable for the planet…well, that depends on our resource consumption rate, doesn’t it? I do think these things are solvable. If we as a species choose to solve them. Mostly, I’m optimistic enough to think we will, though not without making a lot of avoidable mistakes along the way.

      • Lynne March 16, 2016, 8:32 pm

        Hans Rosling did a whole documentary on this in fact – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E

        • Lynne March 16, 2016, 9:28 pm

          Hah, I was going from memory – it is really more like 11 billion.

          Good documentary. It even has bicycles in it!

      • Geraldine April 3, 2016, 4:47 am

        The problem is that unfortunately he’s wrong. The population still grows at a higher rate than what he claims in his docu. He looks at the more positive demographic scenarios, unfortunately it seems now that the more pesimistic scenarios are the ones to manifest.
        China’s one-child policy was a last means initiative to prevent a complete ecological catastrophy. i’m afraid what China did chould in fact apply to the whole world.

  • RubeRad March 16, 2016, 4:17 pm

    Don’t know if anybody else linked to this already, but I’m very excited about the potential of Thermal Depolymerization aka Thermal Conversion


    If we can get this to work reliably, then we should be able to convert a large fraction of our waste into oil, so we can reduce the rate at which we pull carbon out of buried fossil fuels, recycling above-ground carbon with a cycle like plants–>animals–>plant- and animal-based waste–>oil–>engines–>CO2 in atmosphere–>plants–>… Also, reduce landfill growth.

  • Chris March 16, 2016, 5:05 pm

    I appreciate the sentiment of the article but am curious on what personal changes you plan to make, MMM.

    Are the annual trips to Ecuador out, then? You are aware that one flight there and back produces as much CO2 as a normal vehicle produces in an entire year of driving?

  • Joe March 16, 2016, 6:47 pm

    I’m waiting for the point of no return—when no amount of cutbacks on greenhouse gas emissions will save us from potentially catastrophic global warming. I know the bar keeps moving (what is it now 450 ppm?) but once we pass that point we can end this silly debate.

  • Purpleboarder March 17, 2016, 5:44 am


    First off, I love your blog. Common sense all around to showing people how to be healthy, and financially independent. Getting people out of the comfort zone w/ ridiculous spending/car riding, etc. Good Stuff…..

    Having said that, I take issue w/ you saying one thing and doing another. By that I mean flying many thousands of miles in a jet, yet vilifying those who drive big, gas-guzzling cars unnecessarily. I can understand flying to the Equator to ‘talk’ to Mother Nature, one time. But 2 more trips? Having this ‘talk’ with Mother Nature the 2nd and 3rd time is similar to a bookie having a ‘talk’ w/ someone who hasn’t paid up. I can see one trip, but 2 more? You don’t need the brass knuckles (jet flight) to talk to her. Why not have this talk back in Colorado on a nearby mountain that you can bike to?

    This point kinda dovetails into the vilification of people that drive 1) too much or 2) bigger, wasteful cars/truck. I myself will be getting rid of a v-6 Toyota Rav-4, and trading down to a 4+ year old Scion XB. I take the “T” (subway, for non-Bostonians) to work. I take ‘military showers’. BUT, I do love driving my vintage 70’s era BMW 4 cylinder engine car about 2K miles a year. I enjoy fixing/driving this fun little car, but yes, I am wasting gas. Now, do you get the right to point the finger at me, while you are flying thousands of miles a year in a jet? Do I get to point the finger at you for the same waste? My point is that we all have room for improvement, but what is one’s ‘discressionary’ (sp?)pleasure/luxury, might be another’s opinion of distaste. I certainly wouldn’t give you the business for visiting family in Canada (or Mother Nature in South AMerica), but do you get to give me static for driving 2K miles in my little BMW? The end results are the same.

    Do vegans who use disposable diapers for their kids, and use Keureg coffee makers (big wasters of plastic/$$) get to rant on their soapbox to the burger-lovers of the world?

    To me it’s all relative. We can all improve, but sometimes we must look in the mirror, as well as voicing our opinions on how to keep our town/nation/planet clean. Again, I love the blog. Keep up the good work, and enjoy Colorado. I came REALLY close to moving out there in 2000. No regrets, but I know I’d love it if I did… Cheers….

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 18, 2016, 9:22 pm

      You got it, Purple Boarder. If you read back through any of the older posts on this blog I never claim to be perfect or even all that good.

      The MMM family leads a completely decadent, high-consumption lifestyle, which is why it costs $25,000 even with no mortgage. If we were truly minimalist, this would be closer to $10k. You’re also right that my air travel fits straight into the high consumption luxury category. You might well be much more efficient than me with your city living and minimal driving.

      The only claim I make is that we consume at a slightly less ridiculous level than the average high-income person family. That’s all this blog is suggesting.

  • Ricky March 17, 2016, 6:49 am

    The message is great, but I tend to think these discussions become a bit asinine at the core.

    We can keep pushing off problems and solving them, but the inevitability of our species ending is just that. You might somehow be able to rally up enough people to care about these problems, much less get them to agree on what the problems are, but there will always be more problems. We’ve already started an irreversible amount of damage on our way of life.

    As long as lobbyists and corporations control the politics in this nation, I’m not sure how discussions like these help. We live in a capitalist society and we (probably) wouldn’t even have forums and blogs to write on if it weren’t for the free market. Enjoy the bounty while it lasts and stop trying to tiptoe around things that are inevitable.

    As a “smart” human being, I realize the things I know, the things I don’t know, and the things I don’t know that I don’t know. My gut feeling tells me there are too many things we don’t know that we don’t know to even begin to make educated guesses about how our species is to sustain for eternity. The fact is that it’s not possible.

    • Chris March 17, 2016, 9:38 am


      You pretty much defined the term apathy.

      Good luck.

      • Ricky March 17, 2016, 9:06 pm

        Yeah, I realize that now. I don’t know, sometimes I just get tired of debating things that people will never agree on even with hard scientific evidence so I suppose I do become a bit apathetic about it. I still try to do my part (although I doubt I’ll ever go vegan).

  • Chris March 17, 2016, 7:02 am

    I wish I would’ve responded sooner because I doubt I’ll get a response this late in the game, but I really need to respectfully call out MMM. Someone commented on this in a buried reply earlier, but it didn’t really get a response.

    You can ride your bike all you want. You can power your house and your Nissan Leaf with solar panels. You can fill your home with objects that absorb and then radiate heat. You can do all of these things and off-set far less CO2 than if you adopt a vegan diet. This one lifechanging decision can positively impact our environment and society more than anything else.

    1 – You’ll create less CO2 by not participating in the industry that creates more than a third of it in our country.
    2 – You’ll drastically improve your everyday health, making you more productive and awesome.
    3 – You’ll reduce your risk of chronic and deadly disease by about 90%, so you’ll be less of a drain on our socialistic health care system.
    4 – You’ll utilize far less water.
    5 – You’ll improve our collective kharma by not being an inhumane fuck-head.

    Think about how much effort you put into reducing your impact on mother nature. Now think about a Hummer driving, 5,000 sqft house living, AC loving dick who happens to be a vegan. That dude is doing more than you are. How does that make you feel?

    It makes me feel like SHIT. I’m not 100% vegan, but I’m working on it. A couple years ago I ate meat at least once per day, often more. Now I eat a serving of meat a week, often less. Same for dairy. It’s been a hard transition for a family of four, but I’m slowly convincing my wife to eat less meat. Her consumption of it has declined by about half. I also switched to all LED light bulbs. I put about 2,000 miles on my 2002 Saturn last year. (I’m not proud of this either. Anything more than ZERO miles means I’m a lazy Dick Head.) We open the windows and get used to the pounding heat in South Florida. All of these expenses and inconveniences would seem pointless if I still ate the same amount of meat and dairy as I used to.

  • HenryDavid March 17, 2016, 7:56 am

    For climate change skeptics relying on stock market investments to fund their retirements etc. (hmmm, anyone here in that category?) consider this story:
    “[Bank of England governor Mark] Carney issued a stark warning over the lack of long-term thinking by governments and businesses, warning that a so-called “tragedy of horizons” could lead to market failure.”

    He says that a huge quantity of assets are waaaaay overvalued, because they consist of fossil fuel holdings that can never be burnt unless we want to accelerate (financially costly) climate damage even further. If they can’t be burnt, they’re worth zero, and the balance sheets of immense companies making up big chunks of every market are far overstated. So do funds divest quickly, risking a fast market decline, or wait to divest and risk big losses? Or ignore the problem altogether and whistle a happy tune? All 3 strategies are currently being tried . . . .
    Climate change is an environmental issue, an immigration issue, a political/conflict issue, and a massive financial market issue, as of a few years ago. Ignore at our own risk.

  • Tissue King March 17, 2016, 9:19 am

    Too bad you and others can’t take the global warming issue more serious. I guess Mr. petroleum CEO has done a great job brainwashing thinkers like you. I guess all these giant crazy ass storms and 70 degree winter days everywhere in this country is a hoax also.

    I, like MMM, live in Colorado and we have had our mountain weather (snow) get shorter and shorter. Pretty soon we will have a ski season of only two months. Jump on board and make a difference instead of be a stick in the mud. That’s right mud. We should have snow and ice on the ground in winter not mud.

  • phred March 17, 2016, 1:00 pm

    Is Global Climate Change real? Well, the glaciers are receding — something they haven’t done since the last Ice Age ended. Except, we, now, haven’t been living in much of an ice age. So, is everyone living near a glacier chopping out ice cubes for their mojito? Duh, the energy to melt that much ice must be coming from somewhere.
    One sticking point seems to be deciding whether this Global Warming (a build up of energy in the atmosphere) is man-made or natural phenomena. If it’s natural, then why do anything; whatever is going to happen is just going to happen anyway? Too many feel this way because our wonderful modern lives are so filled with stress that we can’t handle any problems that seemingly can be put off until tomorrow.
    One cause is our mechanical view of the world. We all may be latent mechanical engineers. We can describe how pistons move up and down, how gears work, the three inputs to have fire, and how to locate points on a map. However, our understanding of field biology is little existant. Trees just grow too slow, genetics is too complicated, and so on
    Solar panels degrade about 10% a year. The waste from nuclear power means you shit where you eat. Seeking energy efficient cars means you’re still part of the problem.
    Vegetarianism? Even God gave us fish to eat with our loaves.

  • Marcus Lehman March 17, 2016, 1:29 pm


    This blog was a great moment to chime in on something that I’ve been wanting to add to your work.

    Even as an MD, I found it’s definitely a hard pill to swallow, having to acknowledge that a whole food, plant based diet is good for you, AND it hugely impacts the environment. I have to say, I find it ironic how hard everyone argues against it when this blog is entirely about opening your minds and accepting the reality of savings money–counter to the cultural norms.

    The whole argument of calorie based spending isn’t appropriate–you aren’t trying to avoid starving in the US these days. It’s simple to eat the calories needed for energy, but your body THRIVES on nutrition, not calories. You end up with way too many calories the way you think of it, and don’t get the nutrition your body needs to live well and reduce disease burden. So in fact, basing cost on the nutritional content of food would show you that PLANTS are far and away the most affordable foods out there. Once again, it’s counter to expectations to think of things this way. And when you consider the environmental impact, it’s a no brainer MMM style. To Cowspiracy, I would add “How Not to Die” by Michael Greger, MD of http://www.nutritionfacts.org

    I don’t expect to convince anyone of the reality here, but I guess MMM didn’t expect to convince anyone of his method for not being a slave to society. I do find it interesting how much focus in this blog is on fossil fuel and energy efficiency, when such a large component of Mother Earth’s demise relates to animal husbandry. And the replies to the contrary seem a lot like the stuff the Retirement Police and Complainy Pants Crew like to spout whenever a Mustachian idea gets pitched.

    Thanks for expanding my mind financially; hopefully someday we can return the favor. Plant Life is my effort to do so.

    Until then,

    Plant Man in a Meat World.

  • Derek Morrison March 17, 2016, 2:33 pm

    I’m going to make a prediction. MMM will see the light and go vegan at some point in the future. I’ll say… one year from now (it should be sooner, but ya know – he’s pretty stubborn). I hope to be able to point back to this comment of mine for bragging rights. :)

    • lurker March 20, 2016, 4:22 pm

      I think he will also plant a permaculture garden around his house with his smart wife and lively fast learning boy…..pretty and edible…..he is really smart and will get there. I promise.

  • TheStoicStudent March 17, 2016, 7:40 pm

    All we have to do is look at our sister planet, Venus, to see what happens when tons of CO2 gets trapped in the atmosphere. Now Earth might never get to a 900F surface temperature but even just a tiny percentage of that will cause major changes to our tiny planet. The Bad Astronomer has written some good articles on the current state of climate change:


    • JT March 18, 2016, 6:04 am

      Venus is so hot mostly because of its incredibly high atmospheric density, not because of CO2. The atmosphere of Mars is 95% C02, but it is cold because it has a really low density.

  • Allen March 18, 2016, 5:12 am

    So how does this bode for people just getting into savings and investing, people like me who follow your blog and follow your advice? This post seems like kind of a doomsday prophecy, and rightly so. The environment = the economy, and we’re ruining the environment, so ipso facto we’re ruining the economy. If the env. has about 20 years before it goes to shit, so does the economy. If it’s too late, is it even an intelligent move to continue investing in the stock market? Might a yuppie like me consider investing instead in some farmland far away from civilization with a big fence?

  • Veritas March 18, 2016, 9:00 am

    It’s sad that so many people worship the creation and completely disregard the Creator. If you were hiking and found a discarded watch, you wouldn’t assume it had just grown there. Why is it different for say, a tree, and how much more complex the design? To think creation was spontaneous, a product of chaos, is preposterous. In saying that, to appreciate the care, the beauty and the blessings that went into the creation of the planet gives one a much stronger sense of responsibility to preserve and nurture it. Combine that with the principle of moderation that God’s Word calls us to and our situation would be much different. THE Scientist created all things and a study into his designs proves Him.

    For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

  • Mrs. CTC March 18, 2016, 9:26 am

    It’s ridiculous that living a minimalist life is being considered alternative or even weird, but it’s totally fine to rapidly kill the world we live in. This is what I love about MMM. We all get why it’s badass to retire around age 30, but we need more education on why consuming less is the only reasonable option for the future overall.

    That, and you just made Mother Earth say ‘apeshit’.

  • Free Range Nation March 18, 2016, 12:21 pm

    I am a professional sustainability consultant, so I feel lucky that I get paid to help solve these problems, but it is much more complex than most people realize and I get frustrated talking with people about it.

    I actually think that water is our biggest issue… I think we will be in big trouble in 10 years. It saddens me that children in India can’t go to school because they have to walk 6 miles to get water, and then we put water on our lawns. Additionally, the lawn itself is a monoculture which is part of the extinction of our pollinators. My point is that everything is integrated and complex.

    This is no longer our ‘grandchildren’s’ problems… it is our problem. And, as an engineer, I can confidently say that we cannot engineer our way out of this. Living like MMM is the only way out of this.

  • James G in the GWN March 18, 2016, 12:28 pm

    I very much appreciate the live frugally and work less themes on this blog, with more time for the important things, and especially how it all ties into saving Mother Earth.

    But I think things get carried away on the idea that that the whole economic system should be able to sustain MMM and family (and the MMM followers) off of investment returns for 70 more years of your life, after contributing 10 working years.

    A main premise of the early retirement idea is that this nest egg that was saved early and one can just live off the returns/dividends of this mystical stock market return beast (4% rule). The economy has to change to reduce consumption and accept that the stock market cannot be driven to just grow and grow – and even 4% should be seen as unrealistic. It would be good to address the irony of this approach, or even play down the no work idea as what we need is people just buying less $hit, but that we need people contributing their whole lives (in a balanced way) in whatever way they can. We don’t want our doctors retiring at age 30 or 40 following the MMM rule, that’s going to really screw us up! We need them to work less and work/contribute until they are 75. Same goes for all professions I believe… we need to harness the intellectual power that has been created for good.

    • Brandon March 19, 2016, 3:04 am

      Great point, and an issue that I have tried to reconcile in the past. Do we really want the brightest and best to adopt an attitude/plan to stop contributing (or switch to a new mode of contribution – doctors becoming ____) after 10 years? And what effect does this have on our plans to live off of economic growth for 50+ years? I realize that this is not likely to ever be a problem, since, despite our preaching, we will continue to be the minority; nonetheless, it feels a little dirty to preach a plan that I have to secretly hope some people won’t follow.
      (I also realize that MMM is somewhat of an exception to the rule, since, despite retiring early, he is probably contributing more to the economy now than he was when he was working. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it will be difficult for that to hold true if 50% of the country’s doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc failed to show up for work on Monday, and, instead, started doing ______.)

    • sshontour March 20, 2016, 1:28 am

      I’m a doctor, and am married to one. We’re planning FI in the next decade. At the moment we need to work, mortgages, students loans etc etc.

      I find the job deeply satisfying, but it does extract a high personal cost. I don’t want to stop work altogether, but being in a position where I could do this just 1 or 2 days a week would be wonderful. I could do the job I have trained half a lifetime for out of love and vocation, rather than a need to survive. I would be a better medic, colleague and wife, rather than working 100 hour weeks, burning out and having a heart attack at age 60.

  • Maria March 18, 2016, 3:11 pm

    Mr MMM, I love you for this post! This is what I do for a day job (I work for an environmental consultancy )
    (in my spare time I tell my boyfriend he really doesn’t need to use a dryer to dry clothes, he can line dry).

    Keep telling stuff how it is.

  • Mike March 18, 2016, 6:59 pm

    At the end of the day, insurance actuaries will force us all to acknowledge the reality of climate change whether we want to or not :)

  • Engineer Bob March 19, 2016, 4:23 pm

    For you number crunchers like MMM how about these numbers?

    1. Using solar and wind energy as the principal source of energy of our society is a pipedream because of their low energy return on investment (EROI, or sometimes ERoEI), which is the ratio of electrical energy produced by a given power source to the amount of energy needed to build, fuel, maintain and decommission that power plant.
    See this article in the DailyKos (hardly a right wing conspiracy site)
    2. Increasing energy efficiency does not, has not, and will not ever reduce overall demand for energy. This is not just an opinion; it has been demonstrated with the cold hard equations of physics, based on the second law of thermodynamics.
    see http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/20/1337811/-GETTING-TO-ZERO-Why-energy-efficiency-will-not-save-us

    3. The only viable low carbon dioxide emitting energy source is nuclear energy. Don’t believe me? How about James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist; Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution; Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Tom Wigley, of the University of Adelaide in Australia? They recently wrote an open letter on the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.
    See http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/03/climate-scientists-support-nuclear-power

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2016, 5:33 pm

      Good calculations in there, and as I said earlier: Nuclear Power is Great!

      The only things missing:
      – continued gains in solar energy and storage efficiency, already notable since 2013 when that study was done.
      – and a lack of GDP compensation for the negative effects of coal burning (you get $100 billion of cheap “profitable” power, but then have to spend $1 trillon rebuilding Miami).
      – acknowledgement that measured GDP is not a sacred thing to preserve: if we have to sacrifice the workers and factories that currently produce trucks and SUVs, and they end up working in solar/wind development along with other workers pulled in from other industries, that could still be a better society.

      I also agree that energy efficiency alone won’t save us – we need zero carbon energy and culture change as well (see the second article in this series).

      • Engineer Bob March 21, 2016, 10:27 pm

        Re. increased solar cell efficiency. If you look at the chart in the article in #1, the EROI numbers for solar energy, which measure energy balances not cost, are so low that increases of 3X or larger are required to make it competitive with gas turbine. Wind is somewhat better but still requires large improvements.

        Re. rebuilding Miami. The ocean level has been increasing since the end of the last ice age ~12,000 years ago. Even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide completely, the ocean will still rise. People who want to live in low-lying areas vulnerable to storms and rising ocean level should pay for the privilege themselves instead of expecting the rest of us who live in less scenic but safer areas to pay for it.

  • sshontour March 20, 2016, 1:18 am

    Thank you for this piece MMM. This is my first post ever and I feel inspired to write. After a misspent youth (oh for a time machine to go back and punch myself in the face…) I am a late convert to the way of the moustache. I’ve had a long interest in environment issues too. I am troubled by the fact that economic growth only seems possible at the expense of said environment, according to conventional sources. I would rejoice at a middle way.

    As a child, I remember these naysayers denying that “global warming” (as it was called then) was happening. Just a scant two and a half decades later and it’s accepted fact. The opposing argument has moved on to calling this part of a “natural cycle”. I’m guessing they’ll be proven wrong again. Even as a kid it it was obvious that the guys shouting down the scientists had marked conflicts of interests financially. Some thing to do with human nature – I’m going to lose $$$ so therefore you’re wrong. Marked climate changes in the past have always lead to mass extinction events, which I think we should be preparing for more, regardless of the cause.

    As a doctor, I’ve viewed the rise in the anti-vaccine movement with dismay. I would liken this topic to climate change denial. Seemingly intelligent people, ignoring the 98%+ solid scientific evidence and latching onto whatever sources they could find on the internet to prove their case. I used to try and persuade these vaccine denialists of the science but would usually end up a bit hurt – accused of being a Pharma shill etc etc. Even the death of babies from vaccine preventable illnesses cannot sway many of them. Early psychological research suggests the more proof you put in front of people like this, the more entrenched they get in their own world views.

    Keep being awesome, for every reader you’ve put off with this post, you’ll gain ten more…

  • Chris March 20, 2016, 9:18 am

    What about limiting population growth? Less people around to eat and pollute. The biggest threat to our way of life is how many of us are around on the planet. Every animal in nature comes up against it’s natural population control at some point. Everything in nature has a balance to population except humans. We need to limit our population growth as well as focus on making things more efficient and less wasteful.

    • Paul Atkin March 20, 2016, 3:08 pm

      How will we work out how to make things more efficient if we limit the amount of human brains available to think up solutions? People are not passive mouths to feed, they’re brains to invent and hands to work. We can see problems, OK, sometimes of our own making, and fix them.

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2016, 5:20 pm

        Yeah, but at 7 billion people we already have more than enough brilliance to go around.

        In fact, thanks to the brilliance we’ve already got answers that will solve our dilemma: stop expanding our numbers and be a bit more efficient with resources. The challenge becomes more difficult as you add more people.

        • Chris March 20, 2016, 5:49 pm

          Well said Mr Mustache. We can think of solutions now to control population or we can wait until the natural course of things makes those decisions for us. I feel it would be much more difficult if we let the natural limit of mother earth decide. How many people can this world support without fossil fuels?

          Love your blog, avid reader for several years now. I was already doing many of the things you discuss but was able to hone my skills so much more with your ideas and support. The numbers have been so positive for the past several years, a cascade of wealth. Thank you and keep it up!

  • Art March 21, 2016, 12:30 pm

    I am reading ” The Rational Optimist” at the moment. I am kinda surpised that it hasn’t been mentioned. Any comments about what it has to say about global warming by people more learned than me?

    • Wake March 27, 2016, 10:39 am

      I think what Matt argues in that book is that humanity’s effect on the Earth’s average temperature is minimal. He also describes how the use of fossil fuels greatly reduces the need for land which would otherwise be used to farm, grow textiles, and harvest wood for energy.

  • indosungod March 21, 2016, 2:40 pm

    “Sure, that makes sense. But pollution levels have been dropping in the richest countries as we enact better controls and technology. Won’t we eventually clean up our act?”

    How about the richest countries cleaning up their act at the expense of poorer /developing countries where all the high polluting, toxic product manufacturing has been shipped off to? We in the richest countries are fine keeping ourselves clean while polluting the rest of the world?

  • Mere March 21, 2016, 9:52 pm

    Thank you for a great article! I am currently reading “This Changes Everything- Capitalism vs the Climate” by Naomi Klein. It is a very interesting read that looks at many of the debates and questions in the previous comments. I highly recommend it, especially for Canadians as a lot of it is based on the Canadian situation. Have any of you read it and what do you think?

  • S-Dot March 22, 2016, 6:13 pm

    I just read a fantastic book on this subject…”The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert. Highly recommend it. Let’s try to not eliminate our species. Good talk, see you out there.

  • Will March 23, 2016, 8:50 am

    I love the blog and have been reading it for years. The frugal, DIY lifestyle has always resonated with me for many reasons. I agree with the notion it is quite green too…wondering, however, your own thoughts on flights? As stated here (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/28/science/what-is-climate-change.html?_r=0), reducing one’s flights is probably the single best thing one can do from a carbon emissions perspective? Your thoughts? Is travel hacking, despite the frugality of it, worth promoting/doing in light of the negative impact of air travel? Similar question with regards to South American conferences?

  • Jeremy E. March 25, 2016, 7:57 am

    It doesn’t help that we are getting rid of a large percentage of trees and other plants that use up the carbon dioxide. I think the solution is to replant MANY trees and other plants, and invest highly in nuclear power, solar power, and upgrading existing hydroelectric dams with more efficient turbines. Even if somebody doesn’t think we are causing climate change, we ARE running out of non-renewable resources and will need to find a solution soon regardless.

  • Geraldine April 3, 2016, 3:31 am

    Climate change is a reality. Who says otherwise is a blatant liar. Climate change will hurt the poorest of the poor soonest, hardest, and most devastingly. Farmers in the African Savanna already struggle with the first forebodes of Climate change. Their rainy season – the only period in the year for them to grow crops – now shifts radomly around, is interspersed by draughts, or brings heavy rainfall that destroyes their crops and washes away the soil. What are these people gonna do when they can’t run their farms anymore. What will the people at the African coasts do when the food supply from the inner country runs dry? What will people in Bangladesh do if two-third of their land mass is flooded? How will Europe look like when the Sahara crosses the Meditaranian sea and chews its way far into mid-France (no crazy talking, this is what climate simulations show) . Where will we get our wind power from when wind currents on the Nordic hemisphere will cease due to a rise in temperature, how will the north of Europe and Russia look like if the Gulf Stream stops? How will children in Manhattan and Boston cope with Malaria?

    Storms like Cathrina will look tame in comparison to all this. And if this is not enough to challenge your fanatasy, try to image the look on your child’s face when she realises that you were the last generation who could prevent all this…and you just blew it! Blew it because you were too lazy, greedy or simply too dumb to understanding what you were doing.

    A deeply concerned and frustrated scientist.

  • Walter Hannah February 2, 2017, 2:36 pm

    As a climate scientist who is familiar with what we know about how tropical storms and hurricanes might change, I really don’t like to see people saying storms like Sandy and Katrina are going to be more common. There’s actually some compelling evidence to expect them to be less common, but it’s still uncertain. Using arguments about how there will be more water in the air to fuel storms is very tricky, and can be analogous to saying that putting more gas in your car will make it go faster. So I caution anyone talking about global warming to not inflate the consequences in either direction.

    But then again, I’m just a scientist trying to be objective.

    On the other hand, if there’s one consequence of global warming that you should worry about it is definitely ocean acidification.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 2, 2017, 2:41 pm

      Sounds reasonable – I’m definitely not an expert and defer to those who spend more time studying the details.

      Do you feel that acidification is a bigger deal to human civilizations over the next 50 years than, say, sea level rise or unpredictable precipitation changes in low-income farming areas?


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