By John Feeney:
I received an email recently from GIM reader and occasional commenter, Alex Szczech, pointing me to his letter to the editor of his local paper. I was heartened to learn Alex had been inspired by content here to speak out on the topic of population. Now I hope more readers will be inspired by Alex.
Alex’s letter could serve as a model, in fact, for aspiring writers of letters to the editor. It’s succinct, so more people will read it. It’s factually accurate without pulling any punches or watering down its message.
It’s so easy to make a difference. These days most newspapers provide an online form or email address for letters to the editor. And depending on the paper’s circulation, a letter may reach a remarkably large numbers of readers. It’s tremendous “bang for the buck.”
So if you haven’t previously been a writer of letters to the editor, I hope you’ll follow Alex’s lead and start speaking out. Write a letter to your local paper about the population issue or the ecological crisis as a whole. After that, you might consider a letter to a major paper. The chance it will be printed is smaller, but the readership, should you get lucky, may be enormous.
Spreading awareness is key. Alex said in his letter, “I’m urging everyone to do whatever you can to raise awareness of this issue.” I like including that in the letter as well. It’s why I wrote this post. 🙂
Image source: partial screenshot, Capital Times.
John, I’m honored to have my humble efforts highlighted on Growth is Madness. And I’m grateful to The Capital Times for printing my letter (to which I’ve already received positive feedback locally) and for their continuing coverage of overpopulation issue. See below:
http://www.madison.com/tct/archives/index.php?archAction=arch_read&a_from=search&a_file=%2Ftct%2F2005%2F08%2F22%2F0508221094.php&var_search=Search&keyword_field=Overpopulation&pub_code_field=tct&from_date_field=20040101&to_date_field=20070101&var_start_pos=10&var_articles_per_page=10 [you may need to clip and paste into web browser if link isn’t active]
It’s of vital importance to continuously raise the issue of overpopulation in ways that are thoughtful and (hopefully) persuasive. As you all know, the stakes are way too high to ignore the issue any longer.
That’s the crux of the matter. Several decades ago, I think many people looked at the population issue mostly as one about crowding, inconvenience, and aesthetic problems. They’d been warned of worse by Ehrlich and others, but it was hard to foresee any really dire consequences.
But now that a number of very real environmental issues, from groundwater depletion to climate change and mass extinction, are converging, it’s easier to see that this issue is about lives and is much more serious than it once seemed.
Bravo, Alex! Small personal actions like yours are vital.
That article in the Capital Times you linked to about Gaylord Nelson is interesting for, among other things, highlighting his views on immigration.
If population is one issue many environmentalists don’t want to talk about, then immigration is one that population activists want to avoid. We need a complete change in how we treat Latin America if we want to solve the immigration problem. The issue is often posed as “throw the illegals out” but it’s far more complex than that. We might first try to do something to lessen the wealth gap.
Getting the population part of the equation into the public square is a first step, and it’s good to see newspapers like the Capital Times helping out.
Bravo Trin, for bringing up the question of migration of humans.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone whose forebears or who himself migrated to ‘escape’ the ‘problems’ of a native land can argue for the barring of migration of other peoples.
I feel that all of these questions of population, migration, even property rights are going to be thrown upside-down by the very conditions across the world that these have fomented over the centuries, MOST NOTABLY since the onset of the modern Industrial Age.
A larger, more inclusive world-view is required but I do not think that that is to come to us without the shredding of the current one and without considerable difficulties.
I also believe that, as you or someone else on an earlier post by John pointed out, we can merely tinker around with our analyses, make some educated guesses, maybe even get some very limited action taken but cannot really figure out how the big picture is to unfold.
Of course, I do not mean to say that we should not try.
I’m an internet idiot, just like you. But I’m not going to treat you as an ignorant fool. — Because it’s not that we have never heard about the environment. All sincere adults are well aware of it. It’s just that we are too afraid to talk about it, and dread the idea of actually trying to do something about it. No social undertaking would ever be more scary than this one. So, consequently, we tend to act as if the environment simply doesn’t exist. We don’t think about it, we don’t talk about it, we carry on with business as usual, and certainly don’t do anything about it. We block it out as no part of our everyday reality. It’s paradoxical psychology of sorts, but hey: it’s much better that way, still. — More convenient.
Ashit: “I feel that all of these questions of population, migration, even property rights are going to be thrown upside-down by the very conditions across the world that these have fomented over the centuries, MOST NOTABLY since the onset of the modern Industrial Age.”
I’d love to see that happening, but I don’t believe it will. Not until the police and armed forces of this world become the instruments of the large masses of people, and no longer function solely and exclusively as the servants and protectors of the rich, the powerful, and the famous; … not to forget about that murky section of faceless and for the most part totally unknown administrators and legislators: party people and controllers and benefactors of these well trained and brilliantly equipped secret services of every nation state of this world.
I agree with your sentiments though. I believe that in order to even get prepared for a whole lot of neccessary changes to take place, in terms of our energy production and consumption, for instance, a massive social revolution must take place. Probably in every corner of this planet. I believe that it could be co-ordinated and done in a peaceful fashion. It must happen in a peaceful way!! I think it’s a prerequisite for success. None of us should want to allow any of our most potent weapons of mass destruction to come of use.
For once in the history of mankind, one can even say that in order to save the planet, we need to lie down our arms. Problem is: the need to save the planet is somewhat a religious statement, as you can surely appreciate, and one that great many television and entertainment people will simply have to make fun of, as a matter … what? … well, something! …
As a matter of fact, I think Al Gore and Dr. R.K. Panchauri have thus far both been very careful not to say that the world needs to be saved. This would be another way of saying: “Hello people! I’m insane.”
In order to save this planet, we need peace. And we need it precisely because the future of this planet has been laid out bare for us, for everyone to see it, in Bali, Indonesia, in the early part of December 2007. At the same time as Al Gore and the IPPC was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to enlighten the world’s entire population about the urgency of climate change action.
I wish I knew the magic words. But I don’t. All I know is that the species has most probably gone collectively insane, and that the first syllable of that madness starts with an $
From what I can see with my own two eyes, and hear with my own two ears, I can only conclude that modern life is strictly commercial. People in general are totally money conscious now. This is typical for periods of grave psychological stress. And I believe this global warming, this manmade climate change and all the other forms of human driven environmental disasters has it’s own way of causing disorientation to spread. And while I write down my imbecile, dreamlike thoughts of a future of peace and understanding amongst ourselves, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds and religious convictions, here is what THEY are discussing in Vilnius.
“NATO is looking into how a planned U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic could relate to the alliance, on both technical and political levels, its secretary general said Feb. 8.
”We are working at a technical level to answer a number of technical questions but we are of course also discussing this at the political level in answering the question (of) how NATO responsibility on missile defense relates to the so-called U.S. sites,” NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.
He was speaking at the close of an informal meeting of 26 NATO defense ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania. Alliance members will meet again at a formal summit of heads of state and government in Bucharest in early April.”
So I’m the stupidest of all fools, am I not? I think so.
I think you are being a bit harsh toward yourself. As we learned from childhood, “It is sometimes darkest just before dawn.” On the other hand, we also learned that “the light at the end of the tunnel could be a runaway train.” So much for cliches.
In any case, let me assure you that there are others more stupid and foolish than you, as Susan Jacoby points out.
Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?
By PATRICIA COHEN
Published: February 14, 2008
A popular video on YouTube shows Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from “American Idol,” appearing on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?”
Skip to next paragraph
Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason.”
A Video Clip of Kellie Pickler on ‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?’ (youtube.com)Readers’ Comments
Why do you think Americans are perceived as being hostile to global knowledge?
Post a Comment »Read All Comments (451) »Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”
Such, uh, lack of global awareness is the kind of thing that drives Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” up a wall. Ms. Jacoby is one of a number of writers with new books that bemoan the state of American culture.
Joining the circle of curmudgeons this season is Eric G. Wilson, whose “Against Happiness” warns that the “American obsession with happiness” could “well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation.”
Then there is Lee Siegel’s “Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” which inveighs against the Internet for encouraging solipsism, debased discourse and arrant commercialization. Mr. Siegel, one might remember, was suspended by The New Republic for using a fake online persona in order to trash critics of his blog (“you couldn’t tie Siegel’s shoelaces”) and to praise himself (“brave, brilliant”).
Ms. Jacoby, whose book came out on Tuesday, doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge. She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.
Ms. Jacoby, however, is quick to point out that her indictment is not limited by age or ideology. Yes, she knows that eggheads, nerds, bookworms, longhairs, pointy heads, highbrows and know-it-alls have been mocked and dismissed throughout American history. And liberal and conservative writers, from Richard Hofstadter to Allan Bloom, have regularly analyzed the phenomenon and offered advice.
T. J. Jackson Lears, a cultural historian who edits the quarterly review Raritan, said, “The tendency to this sort of lamentation is perennial in American history,” adding that in periods “when political problems seem intractable or somehow frozen, there is a turn toward………………………………”
Well, awareness of global warming and manmade climate change very different from being aware of the exact whereabouts of Moldova, Slovenia, and Belgium. I am still saying the same as before: I believe all sincere adults have heard about and are well aware of the existence (if not relevance) of global warming, the greenhouse effect, climate change, and the expected increase of floods, draught, and extreme weather events in years to come. I simply cannot except that most adults of this world un completely unaware of what seems to be happening to the ecosystems of this planet.
Since Bali we have already started to run out of time, I’m afraid. So wake up, already! Hehhehh!
As that all-too-human tendency to deliberately ignoring all that you know, and all that you have heard, read, and seen, however, remains just as relevant as it was before. Especially as so many seem to think that there is nothing anyone can do about this environmental mess we’re in, anyway.
Well, awareness of global warming and manmade climate change is very different from being aware of the exact whereabouts of Moldova, Slovenia, and Belgium. I am still saying the same as before: I believe all sincere adults have heard about and are well aware of the existence (if not relevance) of global warming, the greenhouse effect, climate change, and the expected increase of floods, draught, and extreme weather events in years to come. I simply cannot accept the notion that most adults of this world are completely unaware of what seems to be happening to the ecosystems of this planet.
Since Bali we have already started to run out of time, I’m afraid. So wake up, already! Hehhehh!
As that all-too-human tendency to deliberately ignoring all that you know, and all that you have heard, read, and seen, however, remains just as relevant as it was before. Especially as so many of us seem to think that there is nothing anyone can do about this environmental mess we’re in, anyway. 😳
“Now, all you need to do in order to begin to understand the ecological problems concerned with unbridled economic growth activites, is sit yourself down and study John Feeney’s marvellous site, Growth is Madness! — an excellent archive on all problems concerned with population growth, economic growth and a seemingly endless list of ecological problems connected to the former.”
– — 🙂
I like the idea of writing a letter to the editor, but I can’t help but wonder if it will sink in into the damaged grey matter of people like these
Or the hopelessly dense rapture ready crowd
“Ashit Shanker Saxena” said:
“For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone whose forebears or who himself migrated to ‘escape’ the ‘problems’ of a native land can argue for the barring of migration of other peoples.”
My reply is:
If there are no limits on human expansion in a border free world, humans will move from areas of high to low concentration, converting any available wild ecosystems to monocultures of human beings.
Unrestricted migration is the facilitator of maximum overpopulation.
So what if we are all immigrants (including aboriginals) and it may sound hypocritical to oppose further immigration.
We must oppose further immigration if we want to preserve a shred of biodiversity and if we want to protect the rights of the people who already live here.
Population growth (including that caused by immigration) cancels out human rights, as I demonstrate in this article: http://ecologicalcrash.blogspot.com/2008/01/population-growth-cancels-out-human.html
If you just bought the last piece of land and it just barely had enough bioproductivity to keep you and your family alive, would you welcome a foreign family to build their home in your backyard and put their animals on your pasture if it meant you and your own family wouldn’t have enough food, fuel, water and space to survive?
We are all selfish and there is nothing wrong with that because we have to be in order to survive. Just by living, we consume space and resources at the expense of the existence of other living things. Logically our moral obligation should be in this order: 1) Yourself, 2) your family, 3) your friends, 4) your local community, 5) your state/province, 6) your country
Ultimately, if we want human “rights” we’ll need to reduce human numbers and yes, that means restricting immigration unless a) You’ve figured out a way to put an additive in the water that will immediately sterilize the world over AND b) You don’t mind being forced to move after crowds of immigrants overpopulate what you thought was your sanctuary
Dear Brishen Hoff,
Thanks for contributing your remarkably incisive perspective. Your words have a “ring of truth” about them. I hope you will continue to comment here. Your point of view is sure to be valued and subjected to the kind of scrutiny you will appreciate, I suppose.
I completely agree with your criticism of ‘monocultures’. It has been the increasingly successful application – in the sense of depradation – of a monoculture and its adoption all over the planet that has brought us to the state that we find ourselves in today. It follows, also, that a monoculture will damage biodiversity and it, indeed, has.
My contention is that, quite akin to biodiversity which is easier to understand and accept, a greater cross-cultural diversity across artificial man-made-and-enforced borders would have brought in civilisational ideas that have sustained older societies for thousands of years without their going kaput. Wherever there has been a ‘monoculture’ – Egypt, ancient Greece, Rome – tyranny and a withering away, even collapse, have eventually set in.
Of course, such an acceptance of ‘others’ requires maturity and wisdom. A less mature individual will not understand the difference between selfishness and self-interest; the latter includes a concern for others as part of concern for oneself. A less mature grouping of people usually seeks to foist its own ideas and perceived successes on to everyone else; there is no harm in that as long as there is also an attendant openness to ideas from elsewhere.
The British, despite all their imperial excesses, brought new ideas and ways of doing things to an Indian sub-continent that had been in torpor for centuries. At the same time, I am sure, that the experience of the British in and of India civilised them in ways intangible and humane.
We all know that the human population prior to the onset of the Industrial Age was under a billion and a half. To me it is the monoculture of industrial production and the rates of consumption that must feed those production processes that has brought us to our ‘situation’ today.
Now, if monocultural populations had been open enough to ideas of living with nature, as peoples have done in older societies from time immemorial, by not barring the migration of these ways and means through the people who lived them, maybe these tipping points that we now seem to be headed towards could have been avoided altogether.
On the other hand, perhaps this current process could not have been avoided and has to be gone through in order that we evolve to a better understanding of where our self-interest really lies.
The work of Paul Chefurka is second to none when it comes to raising awareness of the ominously looming human predicament before humanity…. that appears to be growing and coming closer at an accelerating rate.
With the assistance of one of our most brilliant colleagues, let us look at the potential for catastrophic problems ahead on the “Dark Continent” in so short a period of time as the next TWENTY YEARS from NOW. Forget about 2050.
Thanks for your attention.
Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
Ashit: “My contention is that, quite akin to biodiversity which is easier to understand and accept, a greater cross-cultural diversity across artificial man-made-and-enforced borders would have brought in civilisational ideas that have sustained older societies for thousands of years without their going kaput. Wherever there has been a ‘monoculture’ – Egypt, ancient Greece, Rome – tyranny and a withering away, even collapse, have eventually set in.”
You’re on my mind at a lot of times; I thought I’d might as well tell you that much. You are among those very few thinkers around (well, that I know of and have been acquainted with) who stress the point that our current civilization is to be likened with the great civilizations of thousands of years ago. I believe it is very important that we start to think like this.
Now, as you can see, I’ve just started my a blog of my own. I don’t know what will become of it. Chances are it is going to come to nothing. And that would be because my personal life and self has been all but ruined, destroyed, by the power structures of the current civilization; which by the way is the world’s very first civilization of a global format.
Now, in the above article, I am pausing on the Big Brother concept, which I believe is a global phenomenon, regardless of which country you care to think about.
I don’t know: are you familiar with Derrida’s way of thinking, that each and every nation state of this world is a metaphor of sorts, and can only be properly understood by understanding symbols of concern to the human psyche?
As it is, or as it were, back in 2004, when I really started out thinking about the revolution which is needed in order to saving this planet from ourselves, the very first thing I realized was that the revolution had to take place in all countries of this world; a simple fact which, in effect, is making me equally not welcome in any other country that I can think of. I realize that I am stuck inside a Catch 22 situation, out of which there really can be no escape.
“Ashit Shanker Saxena” when I say that mass immigration promotes maximum global overpopulation by converting any unspoiled natural ecosystems into monocultures of human beings, I think you misunderstood my definition of monoculture.
Even if a city like Toronto has races and cultures from everywhere in the world, I still call it a monoculture of human beings.
Cultural diversity of humans is useless towards promoting a population reduction, which is what we desperately need. I mantain that biodiversity is more important to quality of life than cultural diversity. I would rather have beautiful pristine surroundings with streams I can drink from and thousands of kinds of insects, birds, fish, frogs, etc than a polluted city with lots of china towns and ethnic restaraunts.
Communist, capitalist, liberal, socialist, right-wing, left-wing, feminist, muslim, christian, hindu, democrat, republican, animal rights activist, white, black, chinese, aboriginal, whatever; they all are guilty of the same problem: None are recognizing that further human population growth is harming, not benefitting the majority of us. That’s why I call them all a monoculture of homo sapiens– they’re really all the same and they all consume. We don’t need to mix all the world’s cultures through mass immigration so that big business can have incoming cheap labour at the expense of biodiversity. We need a rapid population reduction to save quality of life as fossil fuels and other crucial resources enter terminal decline.
“Ashit Shanker Saxena” wouldn’t you advocate an end to immigration to North America for environmental purposes? (immigrants to here get bigger footprints once they arrive and it results in more land being paved over to build them more houses, etc)
Thanks for the encouragement. However, I’m now thinking of the phrase, “Publish in haste, repent in leisure…”
I’ve already started to regret soft-pedaling the message of what I’ve discovered about the true state of Africa. I will probably re-write or expand parts of the article to give a more frank appraisal of what we’re looking at here. My numbers show that Africa has less than a decade before the continent starts to dissolve undeniably before our eyes. In fact, as the numbers show, it’s dissolving already but people are simply unwilling to face up to that fact. I’m unsure what is to be accomplished in the face of this unpleasant reality by brave talk of promoting condoms and meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Tonight my girlfriend compared my projections to those of the IPCC. We all know the IPCC started with good data but then published sanitized projections to enhance their acceptability to both TPTB and the general public. In the scant year since the initial publications of the IPCC AR4 we have all started to realize just how far their conclusions have fallen short of the true situation. My projections in this initial version of the article suffer from exactly the same problem, but I don’t have the excuse of having to please political masters to ensure their publication. I ran away from the data, and in doing so I have traded honesty for acceptability. In the process much of the impact of the message has been lost, perhaps eroding much of its value.
This may seem like an astonishing thing to say, as I suspect that to many people the conclusions I published appear overwhelmingly bleak as it is. I assure you, that no matter how dire you thought my tale was, the numbers hint at a story that is several times worse. The facts of the case are sound, but I definitely need to re-write the discussion. There less pusillanimous conclusions to be drawn.
I’m leaving the current version intact until I decide what to do – I may end up with one version I show to politicians, and another I show to the scientifically inclined. On the other hand I may decide to throw caution to the winds and” tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” regardless of the fact that those with their hands on the levers of power will dismiss such a message out of hand.
I’ll know in a couple of days. In the meantime I’ll say that we may all have a chance to experience the risks and benefits of cultural biodiversity and invasive species up close and personal quite soon. I rather suspect that the trickle of African migrants experienced by Europe thus far will swell to a global torrent within a decade, as those with the means try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the racing tsunami.
Paul: “I ran away from the data, and in doing so I have traded honesty for acceptability. In the process much of the impact of the message has been lost, perhaps eroding much of its value.”
Hey there. I think this is a problem that great many of the official historytellers of the press are struggling with these days, feeling an urgent need to trade honesty for acceptability. And let me admit it: although I have felt (and expressed) that most of the things that have been going on in my mind over the past few years have invariably turned out to be taboo topics, it is very clear that I have also been tempted to think along the lines of the powers that be, but now that I have finally been convinced that TPTB only cares about the value of money and economic growth concerns (concepts of society and concepts of the modern mind that are taking on the likeness of cancer), I am about to give in to a feeling that being loyal to honesty is the only possible way forward, at least to me.
Paul: “I may decide to throw caution to the winds and” tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” regardless of the fact that those with their hands on the levers of power will dismiss such a message out of hand.”
Exactly. I mean: why should we — as relatively intelligent and accountable futures thinkers — allow the powers that be to shape our thoughts? And especially so in a situation in which these powers are meking it perfectly clear that money makes the world go ’round, no matter if it may even be positively fair to say that this planet may possibly be saved by a social movement towards a massive reduction of consumption? A solution which, incidentally, would be out of line with the first key element of the global capitalist cult: the fact that human beings are four different things, essentially, which is producers, consumers, tax payers, and national citizens. The apparent fact that we are all members of the civilization which finally managed to push the human species off that mighty cliff, and allow this species to finally take on the appearance of an ecocidal lot of apes, well … this may be true to the point, but get out of here: this is not the language of the political, the economic, and the social elites of society, I can tell you that much …
I have only just looked at some of the posts of Paul Chefurka at:
Instead of getting embroiled in an essentially fruitless discussion, even argument, about migration may I request you to read from Paul’s array of posts, specially so
“The Spiritual Effects of Comprehending the Global Crisis” :
Dear Magne and Paul,
Thanks for each and every thing both of you are doing. Someone has to do truly the ” vital work of these days” just as you and our friends are doing it.
All of us are being tested by the extraordinary circumstances with which we could soon be confronted, circumstances dimly visible, even now, on the far horizon. It appears to me the elite/leader class of the human community has very literally chosen to “worship” certain highly prized business-as-usual activities which bring us to this point in history when the family of humanity must come quickly to see that too much of good thing can lead to horrendous consequences. What worked so well for so long simply cannot work much longer.
The Greeks taught us the importance of “everything in moderation” but we have evidently forgotten that lesson in living and refuse to hear of it now.
Now, more is better and much more is somehow not ever enough. Perhaps we are a species that is insatiable. If so, self-regulation will be a very difficult goal to achieve, even in the face of species extinction, I suppose.
Hopefully, Homo sapiens are not ultimately insatiable and can make necessary choices of self-regulation, in the light of good science. Then, while the years ahead may not be easy (given a reasonable and sensible assessment of scientific evidence available to us now), our children and coming generations could have a realistic chance of finding a way to a future for life as we know it on Earth and as we wish it to be for all who come after us.
By working together, we have been able to identify daunting aspects of a multi-faceted human predicament, one so large and complex that we are having great difficulty “getting our heads around” the colossal situation, let alone determining what are to be the changes in behavior that are required of us.
On top of all this is another pressure being brought to bear: to immediately understand and respond ably to our circumstances because of the ‘pressure’ presented in the form of limitations imposed upon us by space-time. As Paul and others have been recognizing, some kind of “catastrophic wreckage” could be in the offing. Every time we gain more good scientific evidence of our distinctly human-induced predicament, we come to realize that we do not have time to waste because our adamant and relentless maintenance of business-as-usual behaviors are propelling the human species at an accelerating rate toward some ecologic or economic calamity.
Once again, as Paul is noticing from his fine work, a day of reckoning for humanity and for life as we know it appears to be close at hand…..very close…..perhaps just a matter of a handful of years from now.
Change is coming. We hear the word, change, every day, and everywhere we turn in this election year in the USA.
Even though the challenges mentioned so far are numerous, formidable and enough, there is yet another huge challenge that we face: the incremental changes most people are considering or imagining will soon be seen as woefully inadequate. More fundamental change, based upon a heightened level of awareness of the human condition and the world we inhabit, could be necessary.
Everyone is this small community knows what I mean when I say “fundamental change” that takes us away from the idolatrous “growth madness” seen in the human consumption, production and propagation activities now overspreading, and threatening to engulf, our planetary home.
Let me list them again:
1. Implement a universal, voluntary, humane program of family planning and health education that teaches people the need for setting a limit on the number of offspring at one child per family.
2. Establish an upper limit on the growth of the individual human footprint.
3. Restrict the reckless dissipation of limited natural resources so that the Earth is given time to replenish them for human benefit.
4. Substitute clean, renewable sources of energy, through the use of substantial economic incentives, for the fossil fuels we rely upon now.
5. Recognize that everything human beings do on the surface of our planetary home utterly depends on the finite resources and frangible ecosystem services of Earth. Perhaps the time is nearly at hand when an endlessly expanding, gigantesque global economy on a relatively small planet of the size and make-up of Earth becomes patently unsustainable.
Business-as-usual activities, marked by unrestrained per-capita consumption, seemingly endless economic globalization and skyrocketing absolute global human population numbers, which were once wonderful, are now dangerous, and potentially ruinous of human and enviromental health and, therefore, need to regulated simultaneously……….. and done so with all deliberate speed, I am supposing.
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I’m not sure about the facilitator. Seems to me the facilitator is economic injustice.
Having acknowledged aspects of the human-forced predicament looming before humanity, it becomes possible to begin identifying and addressing the formidable global challenges by means of properly scaled policy and program development; then, finally, there is the arduous work of overcoming threats to human wellbeing and environmental health by courageously choosing a path for the implementation of humane, practical action plans based upon the very best ideas and universally shared values.
I just read your essay “The Spiritual Effects of Comprehending the Global Crisis”. Let me just say that I understand and agree with everything you put in writing there. As time has gone by, I have also had to discard my previous atheism for some sort of naturalism, animism or pantheism, and I do feel, very strongly, the reverence in all this. Learning about the environmental damage inflicted on this planet is an eye-opener. What is more: learning to cope with the fact that so much of the ecological degradation comes as a result or by-product of human behaviour, habits, routines and even genetics, well, it makes you feel a little strange, now doesn’t it?
Strangely, as we make our way through all the distractions,complexities, rhetorical devices, logical contrivances, biases, politically convenient poses, duplicitous economic expedients, whatsoever is socially agreeable, religiously tolerated and culturally prescibed, we find something unexpected, just as Magne is experiencing it, I imagine.
I am also reminded just now of Paul’s time in what seemed like a desert. It was a period of two years, as I recall.
Who knows, perhaps many of us are taking very different, individualized paths by which we come eventually to a new place where “reverence for life” in particular is manifestly supported and God’s Creation in general is respectfully preserved. In this place, the short-term, soon to be unsustainable ‘successes’ of an endlessly expanding global economy are no longer of primary importance.
This is just a little embarrassing, of course. But I feel — and I know that many other environment bloggers must feel like I do — like something out of the Book of Ezechiel of the Old Testament of the Bible. As we are relentlessly preaching words of Earthly Wisdom — long sermons of impending disaster that should be possible to avert, but only in-as-much as the world population would decide to take steps in the right direction, move on after more than a century of industrialization and seek to reconnect to the demands of the ecosystems, after decades and centuries of artificial cultural and social disconnectedness from the vital life support systems of the planet. — And yet noone, or so it seems, are ready to take us seriously.
“And they to whom I send thee are children of a hard face, and of an obstinate heart: and thou shalt say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: If so be they at least will hear, and if so be they will forbear, for they are a provoking house: and they shall know that there hath been a prophet in the midst of them.” (Book of Ezechiel: Chapter 2, verses 4 – 5)
Now, what scares me the most these days, is my strong feeling that even the most steadfast of all environmentalists among us are starting to show signs of no longer believing that a change for the better can be achieved. I have this stron feeling that we are simply losing it, and that the winning philosophy is that of money consciousness. It is a shame, of course. But we might even reach the conclusion that strict money consciousness and brutal growth madness is indeed modern human nature; nothing more and nothing less. And that, as a matter of fact, it is making it impossible to get the message and the philosophy of wholesale change across to the general public.
Hm. Let’s not mince words here. I have read the strangest things in Norwegian newspapers over the past couple of years. I’ve discovered that some of our distinguished journalists have grown very keen on writing in numbers. Now, I don’t know about foreign nespapers, but the rather big and influential Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet spent the last few months of 2007 doing one Hell (!) of a job of preparing people for some kind of an end which ought to be called a beginning (you are all all aware of this epithet, I guess?), and that the number 18 had a lot to do with this.
Now, the Book of Revelations’ Chapter 18 is all about the break down of economic systems. I know that most people tend to think in terms like these, and so do I. I remember too well how I, in my atheist youth used to sit together with friends and read that last book of the Bible, most of the time ridiculing the whole thing, but always being brought to some kind of capitalist world culture breaking point where the Revelations reaches it’s poetic peak:
“The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise any more; merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet, all expensive wood, every vessel of ivory, every vessel made of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; and cinnamon, incense, perfume, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, sheep, horses, chariots, bodies, and people’s souls.
The fruits which your soul lusted after have been lost to you, and all things that were dainty and sumptuous have perished from you, and you will find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who were made rich by her, will stand far away for the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning; saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was dressed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls!
For in an hour such great riches are made desolate.’ Every shipmaster, and everyone who sails anywhere, and mariners, and as many as gain their living by sea, stood far away, and cried out as they looked at the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like the great city?'”
(Revelations, Chapter 18, verses 11 – 18)
Now, I will put it to you in a manner as straight-minded as I can possibly make it. I say those of us who are old enough to take an interest in the history of world philosophy, must surely have read the Revelations of John. And those of us who are head over heals into the destruction and possible restructuring of the world today, as it lies ravaged and raped before us, must surely be familiar with the apocalyptic scriptures of the Bible, and also other religions, traditions, and culturally based cosmologies from around the globe. Anyone who says that (s)he has not even lent the idea a thought does so, I believe and shall suggest, because of personal and communal fear of repercussions.
I put it to you now, that the idea of slowing down on general consumption is a very good one, even if it is noted in the Revelations of John and, for no other reason than just that, can be understood as an endtime sign, and therefore something that people should disregard. As a matter of fact (oh, how I wish there were other ways of putting this straight), the simple fact that a solid reduction of general consumption is highlighted by John the Baptist (?) in the last book of the Bible, does not make it unwise! To the contrary: I will put to you that “the poison”, which is the Revelations of the Bible, can actually and equally come to be “the remedy” for all of our problems. And I will tell you that I do not give a toss about the woes of the political and financial elites, as this miniscule strata of the world population starts to really feel heat here, as more and more people from all over the planet gradually start to question and correct the consumerist societies of our time. And I truly believe that such a move would be a good option here, as we are going to have to start cleaning up the mess of generations, and embark on lifestyles that are conducive to a planet (Mother Nature; the ecosystems; the life-support systems of this world) faced with rather urgent atmospheric and material stress symptoms.
Ahem. Well, anyway. — 8)
Steve, yes it was two years. The aftershocks have not yet stopped, though.
One problem I face is that once some level of awareness has been achieved, it’s thereafter impossible to deny. My partner wants me to stop focusing on the bad stuff and concentrate on being an agent for positive change. I have yet to decide what sort of positive change I should work towards that might be useful in some way, while at the same time permits full recognition of the problems. for now I have decided that personal spiritual growth is probably the most honest and effective answer.
Speaking of “bad stuff”, I’ve posted an updated version of “Africa in 2040”. I was able to figure out how to link the food cost analysis I’d done into a population scenario that I’ve added as a second section of the model. The discussion of the paper has been re-written, and I have some harsh words to say about the world’s financiers in the “Foreign Aid” section.
The population scenario shows a drop from 900+ million today to 400 million in 2040. And the feedback I’m getting is that my assumptions have indeed been conservative. “Bad stuff” indeed.
Regarding the spirituality I discussed in that article, it turned out what I was originally feeling wasn’t pantheism after all, but rather a spontaneous discovery of the principles of Deep Ecology, brought on by a comprehension of humanity’s existential crisis. Deep Ecology has at its core the same sense of unity as pantheism, but is focused more directly on the web of life on this planet than on the universe as a whole. Both, of course, are attempts to break down the dualistic sense of disconnection of man from the world he inhabits — a dualism that is promoted by all monotheistic religions, and even by the Western worship of technology. The basic understanding of both pantheism and DE is that humanity is “a part” not “apart”.
Needless to say, I feel much more comfortable with this interpretation.
Dear Paul and Magne,
I am virtually speechless, save for the one wonderful word that comes to mind and seems somehow appropriate to say out loud to you now, a word that all of us will remember coming after timeless words are spoken: amen.
… and God Bless you All.
– — 😀
Okay, so I think I would like to respond to each of you — Steve and Paul — in separate posts. As I know and respect the fact that Steve is a religious man, a Christian, while Paul’s view of this is a bit nearer to my own.
I’m a social anthropologist by education, and I am have always been keen on understanding the differences and likenesses of all the cultural and social fields of this world; be it subcultures and minstream cultures, and be it different ethnic groups from around the world. But then, I must also say that I’m a sustainability philosopher of some sort, and as such, well, what can I say? — I say we’re human beings first and foremost, and that as such — human beings — we are mammals, creatures of nature, belonging to nature, as part and parcel of it. Just like lamas, tigers, elephants and gorillas are creatures of nature belonging to it and depending on it. But when it comes to man (humanity, the human race) it is actually makes much more sense to describe our said belonging to nature in the way of pointing at domesticized animals like cows, sheep, pigs, dogs, and horses: animal species that would not have been around in such a big number if it wasn’t for humanity and human agricultural practices.
It would be wrong to assert that human beings are nothing more than mere apes. We are social creatures too. And creatures of culture and also of spirit. This is the reason why taboos exist.
Now, I mentioned the Revelations and also the Book of Ezechiel, but I am not going to forget about all those other cultures and cosmologies that are around, and be so good to mention that “the end theme” is evident in almost all human cosmologies, including animist or naturalist religions / cosmologies.
Let me also point out that in times like these, when all that is human nature and all that is the nature of nature itself, so to speak, is brought to the table as relevant to the discussion of what we are going through, all of us, whether we like to admit it or not, and whether we are foreseeing a future for humanity in outer space (like Stephen Hawking so often has said) or we are doing the opposite and thereby find ourselves invariably landed in the Lovelock / Gaia tradition. — Well, in times like these, the human (animal) spirit will quite naturally be exposed in people all over the place. It’s a stress function. And yes: it can even be a sign both of warning and of real danger.
– “I think the human race doesn’t have a future if it doesn’t go into space,” [Stephen Hawking] told the BBC News website.
And I believe Stephen Hawking should have a good time reading NASA medical reports on the unpromising way the human body responds to long periods of wieghtlessness. The simple fact is: it doesn’t.
“Unfortunately, without the pull of gravity it is very difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate loads routinely experienced by our muscles and bones on Earth. The regimen of exercise that astronauts perform in space has shown some promise as a countermeasure, but not enough to protect long-voyaging astronauts from injury or bone fracture when they are re-exposed to gravity — either here on Earth or on some other planet.”
– — 😀
Thinking things through here. I think it might be fair to say that, under certain circumstances, all sorts of supersticions are quite natural facets of human life, both on cultural, social, and indeed individual levels. And hey: I know, far too well, how scary these things are. Again: I suggest that what we’re actually dealing with here, in terms of sustainability philosophy (or what I might call it), is FEAR. And sure enough: when things are reaching “biblical proportions” we have surely reached the maximum fear factor.
Now, I have mentioned this before: not only are we cursed with religion; we are also cursed with old prophesies. Like the 2012 frenzy, and the end of the Maya calendar, for example. There is also a lot of whispering going on about the Illuminati, the New World Order, et. al. My greatest fear is that all this spirituality is going to be the perfect obstacles lying between the realization that “we got to do something about humanity’s relation to the ecosystems of the planet,” and the actual fact of doing something abouyt it. I mean: spirituality can make us all petrified with fear, to the point when all climate change action might be seen as a total waste of time.
I only hope you can catch my drift here, as these are very difficult topics to think and write about.
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