Brief note: behind the scenes at GIM

Behind the scenesLately, I’ve been busy behind the scenes preparing and submitting articles for publication beyond this site. My reasoning is that while GIM’s readership is growing slowly but steadily, that’s not enough. The issues we discuss here are too urgent to sit patiently, waiting for the site slowly to grow. The aim, therefore, is to reach out not only through GIM, but also other media channels to encourage awareness of the need to confront our overshoot of Earth’s limits.

I’ve had time to work on this in part because of some great guest articles helping to keep GIM rolling. My thanks to Jim Lydecker and Ken Smail for making available their thought provoking work. Another guest essay will appear soon, and I’m waiting on permission from the journal publisher to post another of Ken’s articles.

I see only benefits to featuring guest articles, so will continue to sprinkle them in as I’m able. In the meantime, as my own pieces find publishers (one hopes 😐 ), I’ll eventually reprint them here. For now, here are links to two articles which have recently appeared elsewhere. Regular readers may notice that each is a thorough reworking of a piece which appeared here previously:

This one on OpEdNews and Dissident Voice concerns the tendency among environmental writers to call for cutting fossil fuel consumption while avoiding the subject of population. In effect, since total consumption equals per capita consumption times population size, they’re telling us only half the story and, for political reasons, are choosing intellectual dishonesty over truth.

This piece on Jan Lundberg’s Culture Change, calls on mainstream economists to embrace at least the central idea of ecological economics — that the economy is a part of and dependent on the ecosystem, and so must respect its limits. I’m happy to see it’s been picked up by Energy Bulletin as well.

In continuing these efforts, GIM may at times serve as a venue for preliminary ideas slated for revision to suit a more more general readership. In these instances, you’ll see it here first, but it will subsequently look different elsewhere.

There are a couple of other ideas in the “spread the word more widely” plan. But we’ll save those for later.
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Image source: billselak’s photostream, posted on flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 license

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13 responses to “Brief note: behind the scenes at GIM

  1. John, its a good idea.

    It’ll likely mean more people drawn to this site too when they search your name.

    Its hard work keeping up with reading and writing in cyberspace – that’s for sure.

  2. Yes, this is a fabulous move on your part, John. Best of luck in finding publishers.

  3. Thanks guys. It’s been interesting looking for the kinds of outlets that would be open to my articles. The appearances on Dissident Voice and Energy Bulletin both happened in the last 24 hours. Very pleasant surprises! Since Dissident Voice is on blogging software, there have been comments and I couldn’t resist jumping in to defend myself. :-/ :

    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/07/when-environmental-writers-are-part-of-the-problem/

    I think submitting to Culture Change was a lucky move. That’s where Energy Bulletin got the piece, and it’s generated quite a few visits here as well as a number of interesting emails. Also, Jan Lundberg was willing to offer suggestions to help me make the article one he’d publish. Most outlets just don’t respond. (Of course it helps that he’s been involved in these issues for years, so knows something of what he reads.)

  4. I laughed when I first read that a site called “Growth is Madness” is expanding, haha. Good luck John, with the publications, the site, and all that stuff.

  5. Let us keep at this process.

    Signs and other evidence of a new shared consciousness are beginning to appear……

  6. Magne Karlsen

    Oh yes. Good luck to you, John. You’re really involved with the most important issues of our times. What’s so funny is the simple logic on which the issues hinge: Population exponential growth and economic exponential growth and consumption exponential growth on a planet which is naturally finite. Keep up your good work! I don’t know what I’d do without you.

  7. Magne Karlsen

    Hm. 🙂 Without you (and your blog), I’d be more depressed than I am, I guess.

  8. Dear Magne,

    I wholeheartedly agree with what you report. The elegance and simplicity of what we are discussing is what is so remarkable.

    We live in a complex world and, unfortunately, the brightest and best among us have allowed themselves to be needlessly blinded by complexity, so that they are not able to see certain simple things about the way the world we inhabit works as well as about a more adequate placement of the human species within the natural order of living things. This is the most astounding of failures, I suppose.

    I am making only a guess now, but it appears that humankind could soon put itself, life as we know it and the integrity of Earth in grave danger if we continue to ignore reality, to deny whatsoever is somehow real. The days are numbered in which a governing, elite minority of humankind lives well while disregarding natural limits to growth of its unbridled consumption, production and propagation activities now overspreading the surface of our relatively small, finite, noticeably frangible planetary home.

    Always,

    Steve

  9. Magne — Thanks. Those things certainly appear to me as well to be the most important issues of our time. Unfortunately those who decide what makes headlines seem not to grasp it. I aim to do what I can to change that. Good to see you back! 🙂

    Steve– “We live in a complex world and, unfortunately, the brightest and best among us have allowed themselves to be needlessly blinded by complexity, so that they are not able to see certain simple things about the way the world we inhabit works as well as about a more adequate placement of the human species within the natural order of living things.”

    I’m seeing a lot of this — scientists and others immersing themselves in minutia , and seemingly missing the fundamentals. Below might be an example. It’s an interview with Saul Halfon, who wrote a recent book on population science. It’s hard to tell from the interview what he really thinks about the issues discussed, but it sounds as though he’s bought the model pushed at the ’94 Cairo Conference which said we need to act as though population and numbers don’t exist while simultaneously working to address them by addressing certain social issues which contribute to them. Here it is:

    http://scienceblogs.com/worldsfair/2007/07/population_policy_science_and.php

    And for anyone who actually reads that, I want to make clear that the “Cairo consensus” seems, forunately, to be fading, as the recent Parlimentary report from the UK makes clear:

    https://growthmadness.org/2007/07/01/after-a-lost-decade-experts-call-for-renewed-focus-on-population-growth/

    And I hear you on the Hopfenberg/Pimentel research. It’s certainly ridiculous the scientific community doesn’t follow it up with discussion and/or further research in order to develop or discard the idea.

  10. Magne Karlsen

    Steve: “… a more adequate placement of the human species within the natural order of living things.”

    Here’s the problem: must of us see ourselves as social creatures, first and foremost, which means that we’re much more involved with our personal and group identities as being part of a family, a community, a county, a country, a whole continent of different countries. We see ourselves as creatures of culture, totally disconnected from nature, more or less. We’re very, very conscious about the things, issues or aspects of identity that works to keep us apart than we are about the notion of being part of a common species. Different languages, cultures, social norms and values; not to mention religions (I’m sorry: I’m becoming more and more tired of religions and cosmologies here – I do not intent for anyone to take offence, but hey: honestly speaking! I’m tired! :)). All in all: nature doesn’t seem to matter much to the vast majority of humans, social and cultural creatures in essence: proud nationalists and patriots, most of them.

  11. Dear Magne,

    You put forward important ideas wonderfully well. I agree with what you report.

    What I would like to add is simply this: before we became social and cultural human beings, we were creatures of the Earth. Forgetting about human creatureliness and the practical requirements of the biophysical reality of the world of which we are an integral part could have profound, even castastrophic, implications for the future of life and the integrity of Earth.

    As ever,

    Steve

  12. Magne and Steve — You’re both right of course. A few months ago when I got into a debate on Reddit, one of the commenters actually asserted that humans have successfully extracted themselves from nature and so need not worry about things like species loss or ecological collapse.

    Actually, more than one argued that! My impression was that these were science fiction loving types who had fully swallowed stories which have people living in completely man-made worlds.

    Somewhere recently I read that if there were tremendous ecological decline, even if we launched a huge scientific effort to reconstruct ecosystems, we simply don’t know enough about how they work and what they involve to be able even to begin. Yet these young guys are living with an illusion that science can now do nearly anything. It’s both scary and sad.

    Clearly, much more awareness is needed. It seems to me “ecological education” should be a top priority in many phases of society today.

  13. Magne Karlsen

    There is, of course, a spiritual aspect to human life and existence; one which is deeply connected to nature at large, but also, and probably even more importantly, to social and cultural norms, moral codes and ethical agreements. I’m taking care to understanding human beings as creatures of nature (a species of mammals in its own right, and placed on the top of the food chain: a natural fact of life on this planet) but also, of course, and at the very same time, as creatures of culture and society: able of all possible social and individual actions, up to and including natural and social science, faith, politics, economy, family planning (and the lack of it), industrial agriculture, extraction of oil from the bottom of the ocean, travelling to space and contemplating the theory of life on other planets, easily finding simple reasons for going to war, among other things … literature, music, and fine arts, sports, gambling … and brewing beer … 🙂

    Making sure to keep all these things (and even more) in mind when trying to make intelligent assessments of the human living conditions will certainly be just as important in the future as it is today. You may be an ape, okay. And you may have to lose some of your arrogance, in order to understand that you’re leading an everyday life which is deeply connected to nature. But you are never going to be able to lead a life which has nothing at all to do with the cultural and social aspects of reality. That’s impossible.

    Right now this whole comment may seem naive, even foolishly so. As what I am saying makes perfectly commonsense it may seem like very unnecessary things to say. But I say: it is very important that we crack down on all forms of over-simplification. Let’s get real here. Let’s try to simultaneously keep three or four thoughts in our heads. Humans are not only and exclusively creatures of nature and spirituality, but so many other things as well. And that’s the way it’s got to be. There can be no changing it.

    What can – and ought – to be changed, is human cultural, social and spiritual assessments of life on this planet: what it might take to make it last forever. Well, until the sun dies, to put it like that. And not continue to allow the cultural and social aspects of human life to put life itself in jeopardy, like it’s being done today. And in such a methodical manner as well! Knowingly, and willingly, a very large portion of the world’s adult population is at work every day, making money from environmental devastation. It’s a sad fact which had better not be mentioned too often, because it’s embarrassing.

    Unfortunately, it seems to me like all the people around me are quite able to accept the notion that nothing much can actually be done in order to put a stop to manmade climate change and any other forms of environmental degradation. Even if we might actually be facing large-scale ecocide here (locally, regionally and globally speaking), it seems to me as if human societies have by now become too dependent on industry production and consumption, we shall have to accept that we have entered a vicious circle out of which we simply cannot escape. We shall only have to face the consequences here, locally as well as globally, no matter what we might think about it, as individuals with hearts, brains and natural passions to preserve rather than destroy … environmental destruction is the make-up of modern, contemporary human life; that’s it and that’s that, so learn to accept (and embrace) it …

    I know that I’m going to find this very hard to swallow. But the most basic fact of the evening news remains a simple story of a booming oil, gas and coal based economy which is going to continue to boom, no matter what might be the ever-to-be neglected consequences on the world’s atmosphere and climate systems: it’s what makes society (civilization) keep ticking, so here we go: aiming to commit ecocide as fast as we possible can; oh not to worry. Now: I have not mentioned the effects of rainforest logging, the overfishing of the world’s oceans and a damn lot of other deeply modern and contemporary human economic / industrial activities, ever as important as they always were … the human species as a creature of economy, politics, conflict and war, first and foremost, hell bent on doing itself in for a quick buck, so to speak …

    I hope I’m wrong. Of course I do. But I do think it is very, very easy to accept the idea that we should have to live the lives of 19th century red indians in order to save the day, and therefore accept the thought that saving this world simply cannot be done. As we know that the changes required are too massive to handle, spiritually as well as socially and culturally. So we give up, as individuals and as social creatures, and decide not to talk about it.

    Both scary and sad. –