Skip to main content

It is obvious, the Laws of Physics say, that growth of our population, economy and energy use cannot continue without limit. This should be non-controversial. But it's not.

These facts do not reside comfortably within the political spectrum. In fact, the problems posed by physics and chemistry regarding our effect upon the planet tell us that our political and economic systems, as currently constituted, are unable to respond in any kind of timely or sufficient manner. In fact, proposing timely and effective solutions is considered electoral suicide

Like, for example, that number "350" - as in 350.org - which C02 concentrations can't exceed if, as James Hansen says, "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted." Since we are at 392 right now it is clear that no more Carbon can be burned by us any more. Period. And, even then, we might still be stuck with a radically altered planet.

So stop burning coal, oil, natural gas. Stop our obsession with economic growth. These ideas are deeply unpopular. Pessimistic. Chicken Little.

When the first President, George Washington, placed his hand upon the Bible, he stood less than a single day's journey by horseback from raw, untamed wilderness. There were 4 million Americans in a union of 13 States. Today we are 60 times as many in a union of 50 States. We have lighted the world with our inventions, gone to the aid of mankind wherever in the world there was a cry for help, journeyed to the Moon and safely returned… we, the present-day Americans, are not given to looking backward. In this blessed land, there is always a better tomorrow… we believed then and now there are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.  (From St. Ronald’s 2nd Inaugural Address)
This grand, optimistic vision is, I’m afraid, the preferred political opiate. We take this drug at our own peril. And we do take it. In vast, saccharine quantities. It turns us into bloated consumption units in a corporate world.

Before St. Ronald's optimistic landslide, Jimmy Carter, reflecting the environmental thinking of the time that, for example, produced the landmark Limits to Growth

said this to the nation

Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.

It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.

We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.

We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us...

I am sure each of you will find something you don't like about the specifics of our proposal. It will demand that we make sacrifices and changes in our lives. To some degree, the sacrifices will be painful -- but so is any meaningful sacrifice. It will lead to some higher costs, and to some greater inconveniences for everyone

Talk about Chicken Little! What a downer. And that cardigan!?!

The election of St. Ronald was, I think, a turning point in the history of our civilization. The Mother of All Missed Opportunities. Marketers and ad people generally concede that Ronnie's "Morning in America" marketing campaign was one of the most effective campaigns there has ever been.

Doom and gloom scientists, like Rachel Carson (in 1962), had been warning us for some time

The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the “one less traveled by” – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth
We all know what happened with that. Ronnie took us down the wildly popular, landslide election-winning, easy road where such words as "sacrifice" or "greater inconveniences" would be banished from our discourse.

Now, more than 40 years later, we realize these Chicken Little, Doom and Gloomers were right. Like Barry Commoner in 1971, in The Closing Circle  

the present course of environmental degradation, if unchecked, threatens the survival of civilized man… One can try to guess at the point of no return – the time at which major ecological degradation might become irreparable. In my own judgment, a reasonable estimate for industrialized areas of the world might be from twenty to fifty years, but it is only a guess.
Anything that grows at x% per year is growing exponentially. In this passage from Do the Math Tom Murphy cites statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that show, starting in1650 (1650 !!), US energy use (from differing sources - wood, coal, oil, etc.) has grown at a remarkably steady rate of 2.9% per year. Since he is a scientist he lowers this number for his discussion to 2.3% per year to even out the math to a factor of 10 increase every 100 years. (This makes his estimates more conservative – the direction any good scientist would go.)
No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years. A word of warning: that power plant is going to run a little warm. Thermodynamics require that if we generated sun-comparable power on Earth, the surface of the Earth—being smaller than that of the sun—would have to be hotter than the surface of the sun! … continued growth in energy use becomes physically impossible within conceivable timeframes…once we appreciate that physical growth must one day cease (or reverse), we can come to realize that all economic growth must similarly end.
The point of these math games is to illustrate the absurdity of the generally accepted political and economic "wisdom" that whatever enhances economic growth is "good" and whatever harms economic growth is "bad." The idea of finding a way to create a sustainable economic retreat - OK recession - is so, so scary to those in political power that they can't even allow the merest breath of such a thing to enter their considerations. But look at this from the Global Carbon Project:
The abrupt decline in fossil fuel emissions by 1.3% in 2009 was indisputably the result of the global financial crisis (GFC). However, the effect was short lived as the growth rate climbed to 5.9% in 2010, the highest annual growth rate since 2003.
So, for fun, let's say emissions growth continued at 5.9% for the next 68 years. This doesn't lead to a direct 5.9% growth of atmospheric C02 ppm since there is an existing, dynamic carbon cycle that was functioning quite well before we started crapping on it. So, C02 goes into "sinks" - like the ocean and into soil on the land. Therefore about 45% of our emissions end up going into the atmosphere as C02 ppm. But the story is more complicated than that because the "natural sinks" - like the oceans - are also being dramatically affected and contain their own nasty feedback affects as they acidify and warm. So this percentage will increase as we increasingly damage the natural sinks.

So our fun math exercise continues. Discounting that 5.9% by a little more than half, gives us a 2.65% increase for 68 years. That's 2328 ppm C02 by the year 2100. This, of course, is an extreme case. But this kind of growth in emissions did actually happen - for all of 2010 - and everyone was happy about it because the economy was finally growing again. And if economic growth is the only consideration, such extreme cases are what our political and economic leaders hope for.

The disconnect between what chemistry and physics tell us needs to be done and what our economic and political leaders are able and/or willing to deliver is huge. It seems like an impenetrable box. Who could win a campaign on the platform of a sustainable economic retreat?

Instead we get various creative repackagings of St. Ronald’s “no limits to growth and human progress.” No politician dares oppose growth. No one will admit the fact that the standard economic model of constant exponential growth is a prescription for collective suicide.

So we get this truth from a participant at Doha:

It is not the process [that is dysfunctional]. The process is fine. If you look now at the past 20 years, what has delivered more climate action? This process has delivered more than anything else .... Countries come here and this process tries to find what common political will exists and it captures it. But if the political will is low, then what it can capture is what exists."
- Wael Hmaidan, from Climate Action Network International
Basic physics and mathematics tell us that sustained, long term growth of x% per year of any physical process – manufacturing, mining, energy generation, etc. – is physically impossible in a limited system. Like the planet earth. (For those of you who watched too much Star Trek and envisage an unlimited expansion into space I would refer you to Why Not Space).

There must be a controlled and substantial economic retreat. It’s either that or an uncontrolled general environmental collapse. Those are our choices. Any other half measures are nothing but politically expedient ways of putting lipstick on an exponentially growing pig and riding it to Venus.

I know there are many who believe we can have our economic growth and a population of upwards of 10 billion - unheard of for any large mammal - and still live in comfort on a habitable planet if we only recycle more or reduce our carbon footprint or vote for better politicians. Those who believe that are welcome to hold those opinions.

I disagree. I believe physics, chemistry and math indicate that there must be much more radical and revolutionary changes than our present political system can deliver. These radical and revolutionary changes will happen either voluntarily by a massive exercise of collective will or by much less pleasant involuntary means. The voluntary revolution must begin on a local community level. It must begin now.  


Originally posted to grains of sand on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 04:21 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, DK GreenRoots, and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  In each vat of wine (16+ / 0-)

    ...yeast has a joyous population explosion -- until the party ends and the last of them die poisoned by their own waste.

    From a Vonnegut point-of-view -- humans may be creating a heady brew for the next sentient species that will take their place. This seems a likely universal pattern since -- like yeast -- humans simply cannot stop themselves from over-breeding. The CO2 and all other environmental and humanitarian issues are merely an inevitable byproduct of that.

    In the fact that our grotesque over-population is a taboo subject -- the tipping point of our extinction is foretold. It should leave behind quite a bountiful vintage.


    A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

    by Pluto on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:30:57 PM PST

    •  Yes, yeast produces toxic waste and C02, as they (6+ / 0-)

      busily devour the sweetness of their environment.

      Our population is beyond belief if you look at the population sizes of other similar sized large mammals.

      However, I may not be quite as dark about this as you are. I do have some hope that we are smarter than yeast and can at least figure out a way to mitigate the disaster caused by our own behavior.

      muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

      by veritas curat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 06:35:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The hockey stick data (8+ / 0-)

        ...always leads to colony collapse.

        It's not dark at all. Especially in the pursuit of good champagne.


        A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

        by Pluto on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 07:14:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your graph, Pluto... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          veritas curat, Pluto, Wolf10, NoMoreLies

          ...illustrates why I am always puzzled by diaries like this, which call out for less economic growth and draconian political measures to deal with the crisis, but then they almost completely ignore the single most important variable which must be controlled or else all these 'conservation' efforts (do with less) are doomed to failure.

          I am speaking of the ONLY environmental argument that anyone should take seriously: the need for population control, or rather population reduction.

          The 'radical change' that must take place is a growing awareness that birth rates need to be reduced below 'maintenance level' for a period of time, until the population is at a level that permits our use of resources at whatever level we desire.

          This means that an increasing number of couples will need to embrace the idea of a childless relationship, or if they really want to raise children, they should adopt them from couples around the world who have not been 'socially responsible.'

          IMO, it will be much easier to achieve population reduction than to convince the billions of people around the world that want to enjoy the standard of living of 'middle-middle-class' Americans.

          Also, if we can get on top of this key variable, if our shared values change to where the population reduction is achieved, then none of these other ways to deal with environmental limitations will be necessary; the real persons who are born into an environmentally stable world will not need to be concerned with limitations on their consumption.

          IMO, there really is only one environmental issue: population reduction.

          And yet, none of this was addressed in the diarist's posting.  Why is that?

          •  Well, it was strongly implied in the conclusion - (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            veritas curat, Pluto, Wolf10
            I know there are many who believe we can have our economic growth and a population of upwards of 10 billion - unheard of for any large mammal - and still live in comfort on a habitable planet if we only recycle more or reduce our carbon footprint or vote for better politicians. Those who believe that are welcome to hold those opinions.

            I disagree. I believe physics, chemistry and math indicate that there must be much more radical and revolutionary changes than our present political system can deliver. These radical and revolutionary changes will happen either voluntarily by a massive exercise of collective will or by much less pleasant involuntary means. The voluntary revolution must begin on a local community level. It must begin now.  

            The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

            by Words In Action on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 06:39:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, it was 'mentioned'... (4+ / 0-)

              But no sooner was it mentioned than attention was focused on the possible need to 'force radical changes' on the greater population through 'strong arm' government intervention.

              I guess I really don't understand this willingness/eagerness to imagine dramatic upheaval instead of focusing on the only thing that is going to work: population reduction.

              It strikes me as the wrong way to focus one's time and attention if one feels really strongly about the issue.

              Politics will be optimally effective if it is used to help focus the attention of the educated class on the serious need to reconsider certain traditional attitudes re: parenthood and family values.

              •  Your concern is well placed. Population reduction (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                James Kroeger, Pluto

                is critical. May I refer you to this:

                http://www.dailykos.com/...

                muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

                by veritas curat on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:15:47 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  As if population reduction wouldn't require (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                veritas curat

                a "dramatic upheaval".

                At least half our country considers having large families a basic "freedom". I live in Utah and there are tons of large families here. Frankly, it's a fundamental tactic for growing the church.

                Most of the other half of the country would also find such a program--those who haven't already adopted the idea for environmental, economic or other personal reasons--especially if promoted by the government, as "chilling" at the very least. And to get real population reduction, it would have to be much more than politely "encouraged".

                We need both dramatic economic scale-back AND population reduction to deal with climate change. Frankly, to some extent, economic scale-back will encourage population reduction...

                The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

                by Words In Action on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:24:19 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Don't forget Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, (2+ / 0-)

                  Hindus, Confucians, evangelical Protestants and fundamentalists of every other stripe... including secular nationalist ideologies like Stalinism.

                  They all perpetuate the atavistic urge to out-breed the other tribe.

                  Population was a vibrant part of the national conversation in the 1970's... an accepted corollary to the environmental movement. It vanished from political discourse after 1980 - just as the GOP got into bed with the religious right.

                  Have you noticed?
                  Politicians who promise LESS government
                  only deliver BAD government.

                  by jjohnjj on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 09:48:01 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Population momentum (lots of young people) makes (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            veritas curat, CatsValet, Pluto

            it improbable imo that anything much can be accomplished with a have-less-kids program within the time in which we have to act.

            •  This may be very well true... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              veritas curat, wonmug, Pluto

              ...but that probability does not reduce in any way the supreme importance of the only solution that is a solution.

              In fact, an effective campaign on reducing the world's total population could be the ideal way to make the electorate more agreeable/receptive to any stopgap initiatives that might be needed to forestall disaster in the near-term.

      •  Yeast are smarter (0+ / 0-)

        They can sporulate.  Go dormant and lay at the bottom of the bottle for a long time until some home brewer decides to pitch them into another vat.  Can you do that?

        Even if I could, I think it would be a long wait for some extra-terrestrial to scoop up the sporulating dregs of humanity and pitch them to another planet to do their CO2 magic.

    •  The first time it hit me (11+ / 0-)

      that mankind was fundamentally behaving in no more enlightened a manner than yeast it left me in a depressed funk for more than a week.  We split the fucking atom!  We composed Beethoven's Ninth and penned the plays of Shakespeare!  Aren't we better than to annihilate ourselves like a petri dish full of microbes?

      So far, it looks like the answer is no.  Here's hoping we begin exploring some of our untapped human potential and figure a way out of this mess.

      Did you ever read Dune?

      The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called "spannungsbogen"—which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing.
      We could use a little bit of that.

      "If Mitt takes office, sooner or later, the Zomnies will come for all of us." -Joss Whedon

      by quillsinister on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 10:26:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  vc - I think you outline the challenge very well (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    veritas curat, Gooserock, tardis10

    Another great example of the political difficulty of communicating the future risks to the electorate was a statement by Bush 41 at the Earth Summit in 1992. His statement that "The American way of life is not negotiable" continues to be the overwhelming view of our citizens in 2012, twenty years later.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 05:31:07 PM PST

  •  My Feeling is That Humanity, But Not Modernity, (8+ / 0-)

    knows how to deal with this situation. "Humanity" referring both to our species and its traditional cultures dating from before the Renaissance.

    But for the last 1,000 years our political and economic systems have been evolving in circumstances of surplus space, resources and waste capacity, due to the opening of new worlds and explosion of technology's abilities to exploit old worlds.

    All our values, our concepts of freedoms and obligations, rights and responsibilities, are heavily colored by 10 centuries developing in a free lunch world.

    A few among us have, all along the way, been thrust backwards into a high-cost-lunch world, into survival conditions such as being marooned in wilderness or lifeboats at sea.

    In such circumstances the first things jettisoned are principles often touted as defining the American system, principles of individual liberties and freedoms, in favor of survival of as high as possible a percentage of the whole.

    In a lifeboat there are vital commodities that have hard limits. Well, at this moment the planet earth has a hard limit. Our planet cannot accept 1 single new net molecule of carbon gas without increasing the harm inflicted on individuals and their property worldwide.

    Our modern free-lunch-premised world, and most of all the American Constitutional system, is fine-tuned for the opposite of our present and future circumstances.

    So it's going to require popular and talent agitation at or beyond the extremes anticipated by our systems, to push it to respond appropriately to a world for which our system is the worst adapted of all modern societies.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 08:13:11 PM PST

    •  I doubt however (4+ / 0-)

      that agitation is going to do a hell of a lot of good until the corpses pile high enough for people to realize that their personal survival is threatened.  And then, their first priority is going to be to assure that survival (and of course their offspring) above all else.

      Effective communal effort seems far less likely than a sudden rush to Hobbsian competition such as is seen in prison camps, internment centers, and reservations.  Resource scarcity rarely brings out the best in humanity.

    •  Great comment! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action

      Entropy means there is no free lunch.

      muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

      by veritas curat on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:26:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well said, as always. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      veritas curat
      So it's going to require popular and talent agitation at or beyond the extremes anticipated by our systems, to push it to respond appropriately to a world for which our system is the worst adapted of all modern societies.
      The problem is that for about 95% of the left (including its independents of various stripes), even passionate electoral activism is considered extreme rather than fatally inadequate.

      The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

      by Words In Action on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:29:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Economics refuses to recognize anything but (8+ / 0-)

    unlimited economic growth since in economic theory there is always a substitute either already there or discovered or created in response to the demand.  Since that fits the narrative our politicians and most of the world population want to believe in.....

    This ignores what all of life science has seen again and again.  A population, be it yeast, rabbits, trees or any other living thing will expand to consume all the resources available to it, collapse, and die off.  In the case of rabbits and trees, predators and forest fires serve as a check on population growth.

    Unfortunately for humans, we've pretty much managed to stop parts of the system that would check our population growth, at least temporarily.  If you look at a graph of population growth with fossil fuel use you can see that the source of the excess carbon has permitted rampant human population growth.

    I don't think we can stop ourselves.

  •  Great diary.Great discussion in comments (4+ / 0-)

    Thanks to one and all for a thoughtful morning.

    I wish I had an answer to our dilemma, but it's tough not to despair. We need the political equivalent of a messiah, I think. What I fear, though, is that we had him, and found him wanting...in part, because he was wanting. Gore had the only platform that really mattered and deliberately avoided challenging us until his political career was over. Carter's message resonates today, but it came too soon. Can a President have the courage to deliver this message today, when everything is on the line --- when the threat is no longer abstract and theoretical?

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

    by FischFry on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:34:25 AM PST

  •  All of which kinda puts the election(s) in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    veritas curat

    perspective, one which does imply that they don't really matter, because they don't result in anything but incremental change, at best, and you simply can't get to either an economically just or environmentally sustainable future incrementally.

    Our plutocrats are the radicals. The rest of us are milling through the cattle chutes toward...

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 06:44:12 AM PST

  •  The difference between US and The Ants.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grandpa Dave, Wolf10, DBunn

    We are the first species to be self-aware of the world around us and our true place in it.

    We are the first to understand who and what we are, what earth is and what its limitations are, and Earth's place in the solar system, galaxy and the universe.

    We are the first to have the power to control our fate, and the fate of Earth. From deflecting asteroids to eventually spreading out across space to colonize other worlds and continue to exist beyond the eventual demise of Earth.

    Population is always left out of the discussion. Earth can only support 2-3 billion humans and our animals. We have already blown way past that level.

    Not only do we have to  reduce carbon release and work to re-establish balance in the atmosphere, we need to reduce the footprint, literally, of the human race..... or we assure our eventual destruction, just as too damn many deer or elk or whatever leads inevitably to disease, starvation and massive population decline anyway.

    Population control is something we can accomplish in 1-2 generations, entirely within our own control and decisions. It is about time there be a serious discussion worldwide..... or ultimately, the advanced nations are going to decide it for the  less developed BY FORCE.

    I think we all know in the back of our minds what the actions are that will be taken when over population becomes a world wide crisis... it won't be US, EU, Japanese, or Russians being "eliminated" to clear up the problem. We won't be giving up our food and water to feed the hordes of "others" at the expense of our own children.

    So how about saving ourselves from that decision, and just take actions to prevent going any further toward doom.

    We have (can have) the technology to solve the carbon problem, and we know how to solve population.... let's start by stopping the complaints we have with China and one-child policy. They may need some improvements with implementation, but at least they are DOING SOMETHING to address the issue, India refuses to take any such action and India's population will exceed China's soon.

    We need to reduce human population to 3 billion or less as soon as can be done without killing.... or the killing will come, either by us or at the hands of mother nature.

    Let's be humans, not ants.

    •  Good point. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wolf10, DBunn

      When I was in China in 2000, people told me that without the one-child policy, there would have been an additional 300 million Chinese (and a lot more by now).  Yes, it's true that the Chinese policy is harsh, but unfortunately, the situation demands harsh measures.  Anyone who opposes the Chinese policy should say what the Chinese should have done instead.  There is no good answer.

    •  Guiding values (0+ / 0-)

      It would be helpful to establish a couple of values to guide us through our response to population overshoot. I suggest these:

      No slavery
      No genocide
      It may seem strange to bring those things into the discussion, but as Jester implies here,
      We won't be giving up our food and water to feed the hordes of "others" at the expense of our own children.
      ...  if we don't eliminate such strategies as slavery and genocide (or their close equivalents by some other name) up front, they will be seen by some as viable responses to the population trap. And the more evident the trap becomes, the more acceptable those responses will begin to seem.
  •  Amish folks offer a good model for survival (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    veritas curat

    What you saying in this diary implies that we need to go back to a 19th century way of life and there are people I've met who show us that this need not be such a bad thing. The Amish  who have been moving into this part of NY state - the Mohawk  Valley - in recent years offer a good model for how to restructure our economic lives. They are definitely not fanatics and will  use trucks to transport their produce to farmer markets in the cities. But they will not use electricity or fossil fuel-powered machinery to raise their crops. Even so, they are quite prosperous and are known to buy farms for cash. (Real estate values are low around here and a good-sized farm will go for about the same price as a studio apartment down in NYC.)

    The Amish are fundamentalist Christians and their core beliefs do not differ greatly from many Baptists - but they do tend to be very literal in their interpretation of the Bible. They have been pacifists, for example, in all of America's wars.

    Although I do not share the Bible-based ideology of the Amish, it is pretty clear to me that some kind of spiritual  vision is helpful when it comes to going back to a simpler way of life. It makes more sense, then, to give up all the oil-powered goodies like cars, air travel and overheated houses. Such a vision might be Sufi or Buddhist or something else entirely, but we do, at least in my view, need some kind of alternate spiritual tradition if we are going to go back to a more sustainable way of life.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:40:02 PM PST

    •  I'm not suggesting that we "go back" to any (0+ / 0-)

      historical time period. Actually, I think there is no going back. The cat's out of the bag. We've got advanced technology and there's no way to un-invent, say, the attack helicopter. There are also many advances that are well worth preserving, I'm thinking things like vaccines or solar panels.

      What we're facing, I think, is something entirely new... but much smaller.

      muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

      by veritas curat on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 06:15:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think the next great war will come in mid-Asia. (0+ / 0-)

    Either that, or in Africa, but probably around the Indian-Pakistani-Chinese-Bangladesh-Russian borders. There's simply not going to be enough food, and one or more of the nations will choose war over political collapse from the people starving, knowing full well that the war will solve the problem even if no more resources are gained.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site