Lucchitta, I., Schleicher, D., and Cheney, P. (1981). Of Price and Prejudice: the Importance of Being Earnest about Environmental Impact Statements. Geological Society Bulletin, 9:590-591.
The US Pioneer/
And today the backwash is seen in the desert states of Nevada,
and Utah which now have the highest growth rates in the country.
The wide expanses of the North American continent, the pioneer spirit, the development of a superior technology, and business enterprise go hand-in-hand. The pioneers moved West, and created long distances between themselves and their fellow countrymen. Resources in distant places, for example gold and oil, became desirable. Transportation and communication technology was created largely to bridge these distances, either because inventors saw the need to overcome these distances or because the need created a demand for more improvements on the technology. Cars, airplanes, telegraph communication, improved printing techniques, the telephone, radio, and television all came from the desire to bridge the distances. Today we have computers and the Internet which extend the idea.
And so we still hang on to the idea of expanding and now create urban sprawl and displace the animals, forests, and wetlands. And because expansion across the land went hand-in-hand with the expansion of technology, we have come to expect that no problem is unsolvable by technology. In fact, many have come to see technology as all-powerful, even god-like. One name that has been coined for these people is:
Got Economics? Twelve step program to introduce the laws of thermodynamics to economists.
"What you don't understand," ... "is that rural politicians in this state [Utah] believe it is still their duty to tame the frontier. Manifest Destiny didn't die at the turn of the century. It merely shifted from ranching to development, and woe to the environment caught in-between." Science Under Siege: The Politician's War on Nature and Truth by Todd Wilkinson
Tecnology was given to us by God -??
Technology is unlimited - ???
"Technology is of no use to us if it is used without
respect for the Earth and its processes." -Aldo Leopold
"Look at fishery production. We built bigger ships, larger nets, and now the fish populations of the oceans lakes and rivers are lower than they've been since 1970. Look at the Colorado River. As it flows south, California, Arizona, and Colorado take a big piece out of it to support their populations. By the time that river reaches Mexico, it's dry. What technology do we have available, short of manipulating the climate, that can double the flow of the Colorado River?" David Pimentel, PhD professor of entomology and agricultural sciences, Cornell University
If things get really bad, we can build space ships and take the extra people to another planet.
The trouble with space travel is that it will be expensive. Only a few people can afford it. 2.5 people are born in the world every second, so even if everyone could afford space travel, a space ship that held 9,000 people would have to be built and leave the planet every hour, just to keep up with the world's hourly population growth. Can you think of a country that would have the resources and the manpower to build, fuel, and send up a spaceship that big every hour?
Technology has done more harm than good in the area of pollution.
A major use of technology is, and has been, to accommodate the growth of populations, and to remove the recognition of the importance of living within the carrying capacity of the environment. Albert A. Bartlett
Environmental Ethics Institute We do not calculate nature's losses as our losses. We imagine we are in control of the natural world. We try to manipulate and fix nature like we would a machine. That is why Earth's capacity to sustain and regenerate life is diminishing. For humans to continue on Earth, Einstein said we will have to master a new manner of thinking.
If we squeeze time ... and compress the earth's four billion years into the six days of creation, the earth began on last Sunday at midnight, life arrived Tuesday noon, to grow, spread, diversity, and become ever more beautiful. Neanderthal man came 11 seconds before Saturday midnight, agriculture only 1 1/2 seconds before midnight. The industrial Revolution began its attack on the earth 1/40th of a second ago.
It is midnight now, and high time to slow the attack. So far almost all nations have been asking for more speed, believing that some kind of technological magic will stretch the earth. There is no such magic. We ought soon to learn to ask, before starting a vast new project, What will we gain if we don't build it? What will it cost the earth? ---------- David Brower, 1972
World Watch Institute State of the World 1999 Jan 1999
During the past century, world population grew by more than 4 billion-three times the number of people when the century began. At the same time, the use of energy and raw materials grew more than ten times.
"These trends cannot continue for many more years," said the authors. "As the 21st century approaches, the big question is whether we can muster the ingenuity to change-and do so rapidly enough to stave off environmentally-based economic decline.
Today, at the dawn of a new century, faith in technology and human progress are as common as they were a century ago. In their fascination with information technologies, many of today's economic thinkers seem to have forgotten that our modern civilization, like its forerunners, is entirely dependent on its ecological foundations-foundations that the economy is now eroding.
Since our emergence as a species, human societies have continually run up against local environmental limits that have caused them to collapse, as local forests and cropland were overstressed. But the advances in technology that have allowed us to surmount these local limits have transferred the problem of environmental limits to the global level, where human activities now threaten planetary systems. Among the problems we now face:
* World energy needs are projected to double in the next several decades, but no credible geologist foresees a doubling of world oil production, which is projected to peak within the next few decades.
* While protein demands are projected to also double in the century ahead, no respected marine biologist expects the oceanic fish catch, which has plateaued over the last decade, to double. The world's oceans are being pushed beyond the breaking point, due to a lethal combination of pollution and over-exploitation. Eleven of the 15 most important oceanic fisheries and 70 percent of the major fish species are now fully or over-exploited, according to experts. And more than half the world's coral reefs are now sick or dying.
* Growing stress can also be seen in the world's woodlands, where the clearing of tropical forests has contributed recently to unprecedented fires across large areas of Southeast Asia, the Amazon, and Central America. In Indonesia alone, 1,100 airline flights were canceled, and billions of dollars of income were lost.
* Environmental deterioration is taking a growing toll on a wide range of living organisms. Of the 242,000 plant species surveyed by the World Conservation Union in 1997, some 33,000, or 14 percent, are threatened with extinction-mainly as a result of massive land clearing for housing, roads, and industries. This mass extinction is projected to disrupt nature's ability to provide essential ecosystem services, ranging from pollination to flood control.
* The atmosphere is also under assault. The billions of tons of carbon that have been released since the Industrial Revolution have pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to their highest level in 160,000 years-a level that continues to rise each year. As scientists predicted, temperatures are rising along with the concentration of carbon dioxide. The latest jump in 1998 left the global temperature at its highest level since record-keeping began in the mid-19th century. Higher temperatures are projected to threaten food supplies in the next century, while more severe storms cause economic damage, and rising seas inundate coastal cities.
* The early costs of climate change may already be evident: weather-related economic damages of $89 billion in 1998 exceeded losses for the decade of the 1980s. In Central America, 11,000 people were killed by Hurricane Mitch, and Honduras suffered losses equivalent to one-third of its annual GDP.
* Human societies may also face growing stress in the new century. In Africa, for example, where populations have doubled in the last three decades, economic growth is already failing to keep up with human needs. Several African countries, including Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where 20-25 percent of the adult population is now HIV-positive, are expected to lose one-fifth or more of their people within the next few decades. This could undermine their societies in the same way the plague did those of Europe in the Middle Ages.
"Our analysis shows that we are entering a new century with an economy that cannot take us where we want to go," said Worldwatch President Lester Brown. "Satisfying the projected needs of 8 billion or more people with the economy we now have is simply not possible. The western industrial model-the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy that so dramatically raised living standards in this century-is in trouble."
Global Trade As we enter an era of expanded global trade, we need to know that technology has made it easy to conduct trade over long distances, and this ease of trade serves to block out our recognition of the concept of "carrying capacity." Especially if their peoples are unsophisticated, these other places with which we trade with such ease, are used to provide an "away" from which we can get the resources we need, and to which we can later throw our trash. Technology and trade combine to interfere with our understanding of the concept of limits.
Technology and Sustainability
Technology has allowed us to borrow against the future, but how much has it helped us towards sustainability?
If you are talking about technology and agriculture, modern day agriculture is not sustainable. It depletes and salinates the soil. It cannot continue for thousands of years, as did ancient agriculture. To make fertilizers, and to harvest crops, we take oil out of the ground faster than it is being put into the ground, and we will soon run low on oil. We overpump aquifers, borrowing against the future, until they are depleted.
If you are talking about technology and transport, we are are not sustainable. There is no low-cost substitute for oil in the near future. Sustainable alternatives are harder to come by. Today a multitude of jets criss-cross the skies and ships sail the oceans, bringing with them diseases and destructive alien plant-life, transporting resources that have been taken from foreign lands and allowing even more over-consumption on the part of rich humans. With modern-day transportation, people in the US have become dispersed and communities have become harder to maintain. Where is the nation's future without a strong sense of community?
If you are talking about technology and health - it is a double-edged sword. On one hand, medicine has allowed more people to live longer, doubling the planet's numbers in 40 years, and has therefore caused this planet to become unsustainable. On the other hand, technology has provided humans with contraceptives and latex condoms, and has improved the infant mortality rate - both of which seemed to have helped reduce the birth rate.
Mad as Hell? This Program May Have Your Number
by Bob Burton
Is ToxicSludgeCo trying to build in your neighborhood? Are you and your neighbors swarming like angry bees to attack and drive away the intruder? If so, you may be have become a blip on someone's "Outrage" meter.
"Outrage" is a software package based on Peter Sandman's risk communications theories. As the name suggests, it is designed to assist companies in "predicting and managing" the anger of "stakeholders" affected by corporate actions.
Like many PR consultants, Sandman says he is working to make corporations more open and accountable. His theories about "outrage" can be used, he says, both to help companies reduce community anger and to mobilize activism for improvements in public health.
A glance at the software, however, suggests where its loyalties lie. A demo version for Windows is downloadable at http://www.qest.com.au If you want the real thing, though, it sells for $3,000 a copy ($36,000 for a national corporate license, or $48,000 for a worldwide license).
Obviously, these prices were not set with grassroots community groups in mind. Corporations with deep pockets are Sandman's primary market, and the demo package is tailored to appeal to that audience.
The demo offers a hypothetical sample "situation definition" which lays out the following scenario: "Our factory in the South Side neighborhood has long had visible air emissions, sometimes very thick. The poor, minority residents, with whom we have very little relationship, recently began organizing to do something about the problem, maybe even shut us down."
The demo then leads users through the steps needed to track and categorize people as allies, neutrals, or opponents. Among the sample "opponents," it lists names including "S.S. Latino Assn.," "Mrs. Charles," "City Air Quality Board," "Sierra Club," "Greenpeace," "South Side Elementary School" and "nearest neighbors."
"For obvious reasons, we are also interested in how much power each important stakeholder can bring to bear," the software explains.
Sandman's strategy relies on a fairly crude but undoubtedly effective formula which invites PR managers to map the overlap between "passion" and "power" among stakeholders. Depending on how they rank in these two areas, the company can choose one of four strategies: "deflect, defer, dismiss, or defeat."
Stakeholders with power but no passion should be "deflected." Distract them, change the subject, or just wait them out until their attention wanders elsewhere.
People with passion but no power, on the other hand, can be "defeated." Sure they care, but can they do anything about it? And people with neither passion nor power are easier still. Just "dismiss" them.
The one occasion when Sandman says real reform is necessary is when dealing with people who have both high passion and high power. Those people he says, are "a force to reckon with," and the company will eventually have to "defer" to their demands--"one way or another, to one extent or another."
The "Outrage" software is marketed by the Qest Consulting Group, an Australia-based joint venture between Sandman and the global environmental consulting firm Dames and Moore. The Australian launch of the software included a panel discussion at which community activist Colleen Heartland was invited to participate as a representative of the Hazardous Materials Action Group (HAZMAG).
HAZMAG, a local activist group in Melbourne, Australia, was formed after a series of chemical plant fires in the area. More recently, it has worked to organize area residents affected by a massive explosion that destroyed much of the Coode Island chemical plant and sent a toxic plume across Melbourne.
"The more I sat through the presentation, the more worried I became," Heartland said after the demonstration of Sandman's software. "The program is very, very sophisticated and based on the assumption that working with the company can be effective and the company can be trusted," she said. "From my practical experience neither assumption is true."
Heartland said she "found the concept behind the software frightening. No longer are we up against PR people just trying to be nice to us, but they are being quite systematic in analysing activists to make sure they get their way."
This sample screen from the demo version of Peter Sandman's "Outrage" software invites users to "list your opponents--declared opponents and potential opponents. This is the group we're going to analyze further, so don't stint on your list."
Chasing the Holy Grail of Free Trade By Dorval Brunelle. At the heart of the free-trade doctrine lies the conviction that exports drive growth. If every country, or group of countries, were to act in accordance with this belief, the contest would in theory become a zero-sum game as long as the players had comparable levels of development. But it is quite another thing when development levels are unequal. Removing trade barriers means that the strong get stronger, and drives weaker countries further into dependence, preventing them from fashioning policies to meet the needs of their populations, especially in agricultural matters.
Bigger is Not Better
By Bill Denneen
A basic biological principal is that the greater the biodiverity of a community the more stable it is. The more species in a ecosystem the less likely it will collapse.
Two of the best examples are (were) the tropical rain forest and the intertidal zone---they both have very high biodiversity. If one species is wiped-out there typically is little change in the community---evolution replaces its niche.
Examples of low biodiversity are the eucalyptus forest on Nipomo Mesa and agricultural fields. In Australia there are over 300 kinds of eucalyptus which grow as a mixture of different species along with many different associated organisms; in Nipomo just one kind of euke (Eucalyptus globulus), growing in rows with almost no other organisms---it is called a monoculture. It is on the verge of collapse due to fire,freeze,insect pests or disease. An example of a monoculture collapse was the Irish potatoe failure of 1850 that drove my ancestors to the 'new world".
Agricultural fields have one species (e.g. lettuce)and the farmer has to fight hard to keep it that way until harvest thus the high use of pesticides, herbicides, pre-growing of seedlings in flats and tractors. It is highly productive but very soil depleting and very energy and chemical dependent. It is the type of agriculture that is promoted by a WTO/Globalization/IMF/World Bank and inflicted on third world farmers that have a type agriculture suited to their culture and keeps people on the land.
On Nov. 30th, 1999 in Seattle 40,000 people took to the streets to protest the corporate tilt of the WTO. A stunning coalition of teamsters, consumers, sea turtle protection activists, religious people, women's groups, environmentalists, students and anti-corporate youth and many others joined to "Just Say No to the WTO." It is apathy that worries me. The activism of Nov. 30 is an indication that many, many diverse citizens are concerned about where corporations are taking us.
Similar to biodiversity is cultural diversity. Different cultures have different mechanizes dealing with the natural world; there just isn't one way to interact with habitat. There is an excellent video series hosted by Kevin Costner entitled "500 Nations". It deals with the diverse cultures that inhabited our continent prior to the "discovery" (invasion) by Columbus. Different cultures deal with their habitat differently. If one culture becomes too dependent on one source of food (corn for the Mayan)it may collapse but there would remain other (e.g. 499) cultures available that might take it's place.
I disagree with an editorial of this paper (11/30) which stated:"Relatively unfetted global trade is a primary means of making the poor richer....." Globalization/WTO/World Bank/IMF policy would do nothing to reduce child labor, human rights, labor rights, 'slave'labor or cheap labor. It would benefit corporations and our way of life but not smaller/weaker/different cultures. The poor would suffer--NOT get richer.
We now have in North America only one cutlure rather than the 500 that existed prior to the "invasion". To me it is on the verge of collapse just like the euke forest or ag field. Globalization/WTO of our culture means to me the spread of one (our) way of life over the whole planet. Globaliztion of our car depended/sprawl producing/resource depleting/overpopulated/chemical dependent interaction with our natural habitat will continue to degrade the whole planet. Changes causing the equivalent to the "mass extinctions" at the end of the Mesozoic Era which was 65,000,000 years ago. Changes now being caused by the "American way of life". Globaliztion/WTO in my opinion will accelerate the end of the Cenozoic Era---a new time of "mass extinctions".
The death of the World Trade Organiztion in Seattle this month is a step in the right direction.
Visit me on the web at...
Western Man, a Curious Creature
Tragic Reasons Why the World Middle-Class Favors Population Growth .. by Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D., Redefining Progress, San Francisco USA
Will Humans Overwhelm the Earth? The Debate Goes On "Is the Human Species a Cancer on the Planet?" -Dec 8, 1998 from the New York Times.
Ishmael - by Daniel Quinn. Winner of the Ted Turner Fellowship for a work of fiction offering positive solutions to global problems.
"Individuals who benefit from growth will continue to exert strong pressures supporting and encouraging both population growth and growth in rates of consumption of resources."
Another of Quinn's writings suggesting that there is a race between food production and human production with the environment in between. Only it doesn't have to be a race: we can walk away.
Which World - Scenarios for the 21st Century How should we approach the future?
All islands have limits, including Earth Question the sanity of perpetual growth.
The Commons -The "commons" is any resource which is shared by a group of people. Such things as the air we breath and the water we drink come from commons - Explains the fallacy in the logic of the commons & the reason we overconsume. Gary W. Harding
The Tragedy of the Commons( Garret Hardin 1968 ):
The tragedy of the commons is that it is to an individual's advantage to exploit a common resource as thoroughly as possible. If everyone follows this strategy, the resource would be exhausted. The benefits of population growth and of growth in the rates of consumption of resources accrue to a few; the costs of population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources are borne by all of society.
A) Individuals who benefit from growth will continue to exert strong pressures supporting and encouraging both population growth and growth in rates of consumption of resources.
B) The individuals who promote growth are motivated by the recognition that growth is good for them. In order to gain public support for their goals, they must convince people that population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources, are also good for society. [ This is the Charles Wilson argument: if it is good for General Motors, it is good for the United States.] ( Yates 1983 )
Extensions of "The Tragedy of the Commons"
Comment on Garret Hardin's The Tradegy of the Commons by Herschel Elliott
Chronic Famine and the Immorality of Food Aid. - And more on the Tragedy of the Commons.
Interview with an Extraterrestrial
In the Language of Ecology a language which it behooves us all to learn-the conditions of an imperiled environment are described in a few short and pungent words: 'drawdown,' 'overshoot,' 'crash,' and 'die-off.'
The Hungry Ape Biology and the Rise and Fall of Civilisations ... How animals behave and reproduce when hungry, when they only think they're hungry, and when well-fed.
The Lily Pond Parable" from Ecofuture - an excellent example providing insight into population growth. .If a pond lily doubles everyday and it takes 30 days to completely cover a pond, on what day will the pond be 1/4 covered? 1/2? What are the effects after the 30th day?
Optimists and Pessimists
Chicken Little, Cassandra, And the Boy Who Cried Wolf by By Donella Meadows January 5, 1999
Wanted and Needed a New Kind of Capitalism. Natural capital vs human capital. What good is a sawmill without a forest, a fishing boat without fish and an oil refinery without oil?
The Green Manifesto A new philosophy for the new millennium .. Making capitalism work for the environment.
Growth economics rely on human population growth to ensure continuous growth in consumption and the generation of material wealth through the institution of scarcity of basic resources and natural amenities, such as land, water, natural biodiversity and positional goods.
(a new european term) attempts to measure the amount of biologically productive land and biodiversity required to sustain human and other populations within a given economy. Depending on the values and sophistication of the model, biodiversity for its own sake may be allocated between 12.5% to upwards of 50% of world space.
Voluntary Simplicity and Sustainability
Concepts of the book Ishmael
Is Economic Progress Killing the Planet?. From AdBusters. When the seven most powerful heads of state meet at the G-7 Summit in Köln, Germany this June 18-20, there will plenty of them to talk about. Culture Jammers will make sure that they talk about the important stuff: Like the rising global temperatures, ozone depletion and extreme weather phenomena that suggest a major climate change is underway. Like the document signed by 1,500 scientists and half of all living Nobel prize winners warning that humankind is proceeding down an unprecedented and catastrophic path by destroying the life-support systems of the planet.
Commerce - waste not - want not, or something like that.
The Kolding Manifesto (click on index "Introduction")
We consider the following to be self-evident facts:
- Planet Earth has limited dimensions, implying that there is a limit to what it can sustain.
- Man is a biological, cultural and social being, implying that there is a limit to what he be made to suffer.
- Man has right to search for happiness, but no right to destroy planet Earth.
- Man is part of the biosphere, and the biosphere is prerequisite for human life. We merely have the power to destroy it - which does not entitle us to do so.
- Improving nature is beyond the reach of mankind. We need to satisfy ourselves with living in, off and with it - the latter being a must.
- The number one reason why Planet Earth is increasingly endangered is the ongoing expansion of production and productivity in countries already overconsuming.
- If today the poor parts of the world were to have a standard of material wealth comparable to the present rich world, this would require seven more Planets Earth - which we do not consider realistic.
- The number one reason why Planet Earth is increasingly endangered is the ongoing expansion of production and productivity in countries already overconsuming.
- All over the planet considerations and rights associated with nature and human life are giving way to a statutory, global boundlessness for money and its managers.
- The social and cultural poverty of the rich world is closely intertwined with productivity increases, global economy, money's fundamental rights of freedom and the democratic deficit.
- Only a consistently democratic organisation can handle such overall conditions, and above all the discrepancy between economic power and common sense.
- Gradually, our production of knowledge has grown so fragmented as to produce massive ignorance, non-knowledge and downright stupidity.
- Our respect for common sense has to be reinstated, experience-based knowledge rehabilitated, and expert knowledge reduced to what it actually is, mere technicalities.
- State-of-the-art technologies have grown so complex and immense that no human systems, let alone humans, can control the emerging risks.
- It does make a difference whether a dairy or a nuclear plant goes down. We need to develop technologies that will take us back to manageable types of risks.
- Technologies have to be developed that allow and call for democratic administration practices.
- Such basics are not confined to the latitude of the ordinary political framework. With some caution they should be seen as absolutes for which only the means are debatable.
The 8 Points of Deep Ecology
How Deep is Your Ecology?
Left Biocentrism Primer
Green Web Home Page
- Left biocentrism is a left focus or theoretical tendency within the deep ecology movement, which is subversive of the existing industrial society. It accepts and promotes the eight-point Deep Ecology Platform drawn up by Arne Naess and George Sessions. Left biocentrism holds up as an ideal, identification, solidarity, and compassion with all life. "Left" as used in left biocentrism, means anti-industrial and anti-capitalist, but not necessarily socialist. The expressions 'left biocentrism' or 'left ecocentrism' are used interchangeably.
- Left biocentrism accepts the view that the Earth belongs to no one. While raising a number of criticisms, leftbiocentrism is meant to strengthen, not undermine, the deep ecology movement which identifies with all life.
- Left biocentrism says that individuals must take responsibility for their actions and be socially accountable. Part of being individually responsible is to practice voluntary simplicity, so as to minimize one's own impact upon the Earth.
- Left biocentrists are concerned with social justice and class issues, but within a context of ecology. To move to a deep ecology world, the human species must be mobilized, and a concern for social justice is a necessary part of this mobilization. Left biocentrism is for the redistribution of wealth, nationally and internationally.
- Left biocentrism opposes economic growth and consumerism. Human societies must live within ecological limits so that all other species may continue to flourish. We believe that bioregionalism, not globalism, is necessary for sustainability. The perspective of the late German Green philosopher Rudolf Bahro is accepted that, for world-wide sustainability, industrialized countries need to reduce their impact upon the Earth to about one tenth of what it is at the present time. It is also incumbent upon non-industrialized nations to become sustainable and it is necessary for industrialized nations to help on this path.
- Left biocentrism holds that individual and collective spiritual transformation is important to bring about major social change, and to break with industrial society. We need inward transformation, so that the interests of all species override the short-term self-interest of the individual, the family, the community, and the nation.
- Left biocentrism believes that deep ecology must be applied to actual environmental issues and struggles, no matter how socially sensitive, e.g. population reduction, aboriginal issues, workers' struggles, etc.
- Social ecology, eco-feminism and eco-marxism, while raising important questions, are all human-centered and consider human-to-human relations within society to be more important and, in the final analysis, determine society's relationship to the natural world. Left biocentrism believes that an egalitarian, non-sexist, non-discriminating society, a highly desirable goal, can still be exploitive towards the Earth.
- Left biocentrists are "movement greens" in basic orientation. They are critical of existing Green political parties, which have come to an accommodation with industrial society and have no accountability to the deep ecology movement.
- To be politically relevant, deep ecology needs to incorporate the perspective advanced by left biocentrism.
- We the People By Gary W. Harding - a complex paper, but a good explanation of how rational social, economic, tax, environment and energy policy is almost impossible to obtain.
- Golden Rule By Gary W. Harding That is, "He who has the gold, makes the rules". Very extensive and complex article; it goes both into how the rich are getting richer and it will only get worse, and into the bad news about overpopulation.
The Implications of Slow Growth
Even slowly shrinking populations have little negative economic impact
President's Council on Sustainable Development
1996 Report of Task Force on Population and Consumption
Page 16, The Implications of Slow Growth
Economic theories about the relationship between population growth and economic prosperity vary across the full spectrum of possible opinions- and conclusions depend strongly on the assumptions. A series of conferences and studies of the economic effects of low fertility however, conducted during the 1970s and early 1980s in both Europe and the United States concluded that even slowly shrinking populations have little negative economic impact.
Demograher Geoffrey McNicoll, summarizing the consensus, writes that "the effects of low fertility on labor supply, technological change, and investment and consumption appear relatively slight."
The Rockefeller Commission examined several aspects of the relationship between population and prosperity in its 1972 report, comparing the effect of an American population with two-child family average with that of a three-child family average. Essentially, the Commission analyzed the difference between a growing and a stable U.S. population. "The nation has nothing to fear from a gradual approach to population stabilization," the report said. "From an economic point of view, a reduction in the rate of population growth would bring important benefits." The report also cited the testimony of the chair of the Atlantic-Richfield board of trustees, who testified at a hearing convened by the Commission: "There is a habit of thinking in some segments of the business community that population increase is something essential to the maintenance of vigorous demand and economic growth, just as there is an instinctive reaction against any new cost factors being added to the processes of production and distribution. But our economy has already, and in many ways, shown its tremendous adaptability to new social demands and necessities. I have not the slightest doubt that it can meet this new challenge."
The Commission report goes on to state, "In short, we find no convincing economic argument for continued national population growth."
Many analysts express concern that countries with low fertility will eventually have trouble financing public old-age persions as the ratio of worker to elderly people falls. It is possible however, that rising costs of supporting the elderly may be offset by declining costs of supporting children. The precise calculation for each country depends on the exact age structure of the population, the social security system, and immigration patterns. In any case, population policy is a crude tool for making social security policy, and it makes lttle sense to endure high levels of unwanted fertility and environmental degradation from continued population growth in the hope of helping a progam with many other problems.
For decades, Americans have not had a desire for an ever-larger population. This is suggested by polls over the years. In 1974, 87%of respondents to a Roper poll said they did not wish the country had more people. A 1977 poll by the U.S. Commission on Population Growth and the American Future found that 22% felt U.S. population should be smaller than it was then, which was close to 200 million. As long ago as 1947, when U.S. population was 140 million, Gallup found that 55% of Americans believed the country would be 'worse off' with more people.
I have read the Lexus and the Olive Tree. It was a pretty readable account of how globalisation works and doesn't work, although the author obviously has only the most rudimentary idea of ecology. In the end though it becomes clear that the author belongs to the school that justifies all growth in the name of increasing wealth in order to share it with the poor. To anyone with half a wit it is obvious that there was and is enough to go round for people to survive on but that our human economic practices make it impossible to share properly. For the past half a century we have been making more and more wealth, yet more and more people go hungry and unsheltered. The author of the Lexus and the Olive Tree would have us believe that by the very rich becoming even richer, the very poor will become better off and that is his express excuse for this shameful drive to making a few humans mega rich and his express excuse for being an apologist for an system which is accelerating the destruction of the natural resources that we depend upon for life support as well as the non-monetary richness that they bring to our lives. I agree that it is a good thing for people in poor countries to have access to the global system, but unless we start having nationally based environmental and ecological protection prioritized over "wealth" production, globalisation will continue to spearhead the acceleration destruction of life support systems for the profit of a few. ... Sheila Newman firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternative Culture and Economics
The End of Economic Growth
Development is Not the Solution:
..... Let's Re-examine the Leavers' Heritage
1) Does population have a role in discussions of consumption patterns, and if so how do the two fit together?
Surely most of us are well aware that population and consumption are two sides of the same coin. They should be talked about and worked on together, however, they don't *have* to be. The size of a population can well be worked on in a different vein than how that population behaves. However, if we're to get at the root cause of both our incredible numbers and how poorly we behave toward other elements in Nature, both are symptoms of the same problem.
Before delving into that, I'd like to point out that there is this very critical overlap created between population and consumption in international policy that is often missed.
The current mode of thinking in the international policy arena is that in order to have a population achieve reductions in population growth, "development" is the answer. But by "development" what is meant (but not stated outright) is "increased consumption". When one looks at most populations that have achieved some amount of leveling-off, they have done so at the cost of increased per-capita consumption -- thereby eliminating or even reversing any reductions in impact that would have come with a decrease in population growth.
If one looks at the UN Development Programme's development indices, one sees a formula for eliminating the fabric of self-sufficiency and dependence on Nature that is the hallmark of low-impact societies.
Rather than accept this now-corporate-driven model that has pervaded our thinking on population, we must look elsewhere for our models. "Development" is not the answer to population growth.
Tribal peoples were exceptionally good at controlling their numbers. This occurred mostly for the same reasons as it does in "developed" countries -- that is, women's control of when they want to bear children (additionally, there was an element of acceptance of death that tribal peoples had that we no longer enjoy). We must examine how it is that tribal peoples (gatherer-hunters) were able to have women exercising such strength and equality, yet not needing so much "stuff".
Looking to Europe or America as the model of lowering population is a grand error that will have (and has had) tragic results for the world (as we have seen). Instead, the original affluent society -- gatherer-hunters -- has much more to teach us in this regard.
The greatest factor in the difference between our culture and those that are embedded in Nature that has a great deal to do with our incredible numbers is that this culture (that is, civilization) considers human life to be the utmost, paramount element in the universe. This odd notion has come about because of a number of factors, but mostly from a myth that the world was created *for* us (civilized humans), and that we (as opposed to other life forms or natural elements in the world) were created in the "image of God". Therefore, each of us is "sacred in the eyes of God," etc.
I do not want to imply that human life is not sacred. Nor is my intention to start a debate regarding beliefs about God. But what is critical is to realize that *our* culture holds that human life is *exclusively* sacred. That is, the life of a bear or of a toad is almost entirely without meaning in our mythology (one might argue that other elements in Nature are vested with sacredness in holy texts, however, when one views the general behavior of a culture as the most revealing basis for assessing the mythology of that culture, one must conclude that civilization views bears and toads and passenger pigeons and dodos and golden tree frogs and free-flowing rivers and uncut forests with a sense that they have no meaning).
Similarly, some Jews hold (or held) that they are the 'chosen' people. This, in a realm of competition -- that is, if one is chosen, by definition, the other is not. Our culture holds that *we* are sacred, the "others" are not.
Tribal peoples do not hold such beliefs. To them, *all* life, all elements of nature, are sacred.
What I'm trying to point out is that this has enabled us to develop a sense that we should do everything humanly (and societally) possible to save and extend for as long as possible each and every individual human life.
One just doesn't see this kind of thinking in gatherer-hunters. While some might still argue that that makes them "primitive", I would argue that that embeds them further in Nature, where life just *is*, death comes, death becomes life and all things are cyclical.
Placing ourselves outside of Nature has enabled us to raise ourselves above all the rest of it and to take extreme measures to preserve ourselves -- at the *cost* of all else.
This, of course, came about around the beginnings of agriculture and civilization and then was pretty much institutionalized in our culture over the next few thousand years.
So, here we stand, unable to view ourselves as an element of Nature, unable to have one of us eaten by a mountain lion without wiping out all mountain lions, unable to be targeted by a virus without attempting to alter our genetic makeup, unable to see the death of some of us (particularly infant death) as inevitable and natural and something that fits our species into our surroundings.
2) Could environmental problems be solved if per-capita consumption of environmentally-significant natural resources shifted dramatically downward but population continued to grow? Could environmental problems be solved if population stabilized but there were no major reductions in per-capita consumption? Which of these outcomes is the more environmentally desirable, or is there no way to compare their value?
I don't see that one is possible without the other. Population growth stems from the notion that we can dominate our surroundings for our own benefit - -- that is, it comes from the notion that we are separate from nature and that it is here for our gain.
When we grow our own food and produce a surplus amount, our population rises. If, on the other hand, we remain embedded in Nature, part of the natural order, our numbers are dictated by what food we can find. That is, the carrying capacity for humans *can't* be exceeded if the population is embedded in the environment (gathering-hunting).
While it is true that gatherer-hunters *can* wipe out other species in a given area, they won't exceed carrying capacity any more than would a population of wolves or deer, simply because the food will eventually diminish to a point where numbers must also diminish.
Removing ourselves from this natural order enabled us to dominate our surroundings, domesticate plants and animals as food, and enabled our numbers to increase.
Similarly, notions of dominance over Nature lead to increases in consumption as we view the world as a resource pool.
Population increase and consumption increase are two outcomes of the same development -- the notion that we are separate from and above Nature.
3) Is the future of human population already determined, or is it open to influence and change? And if so, would the needed policies relate to migration or to births or to both? What policies influence population trends and are they desirable or undesirable apart from any demographic influence?
It is certainly open to influence and change, but I believe it is already determined. We have exceeded the Earth's carrying capacity for humans in an unaltered environment and are moving towards exceeding the ability of the planet to support our numbers even in its massively altered state. Without inputs from beyond the Earth, there will come a time when our population experiences a precipitous decline.
Unfortunately, I believe any policies are too little, too late. After all, we are forcing into oblivion somewhere between 100 and 450 species every day. The end of the world is here. Just not our civilized world just yet. And what of the policies we depend on? They are based on the very same notions of separation from Nature that got us here in the first place. Our idea of "development" is this:
+ Decrease infant mortality (never mind that a portion of every species' babies either die or are preyed upon -- and this is as it should be) and never mind that our model for decreasing infant mortality is *more* civilization -- when it is becoming civilized that has created high infant mortality in the first place [gather-hunters' infant mortality prior to contact with civilized peoples was pretty much what the best industrialized countries are today]);
+ Increase literacy (never mind that the oral tradition was an excellent way to communicate and that literacy undermines community, separates individuals and enables access by corporate and national propaganda geared toward ever-increasing consumption);
+ Number of children "educated" (never mind that children were *always* educated to live the life they have been born into and that our notion of education is based on preparing one for a life of work and consumption);
+ Increase life expectancy (never mind that people dying is the one thing keeping the population in check in the first place and never mind that elders in the US lack community, a sense of well-being and a sense of self-worth [seniors have the second highest rate of suicide in the US] and never mind that half of a person's expenditures in life are spent in the last two years of life trying to keep alive [or others' trying to keep one alive perhaps against one's wishes]);
+ Number of doctors per capita (never mind that the Western notion of health care is about treating the symptoms, not the problem and never mind that about 80% of the people on Earth still utilize natural remedies for common problems and never mind that it's the very "development" being pushed on people that brings with it the incurable diseases or diseases necessitating access to Western-style medicine in the first place);
In fact, all our policies (UN Development indices) are geared toward *increasing* consumption *and* population, based on the notion that humans shall not be dictated to by Nature and shall not enjoy low impact, self-sufficient subsistence lifestyles.
Jerry Brown calls it our "war on subsistence". I see that this, of course, is an extension of our war on gathering-hunting.
4) Is there anything that people and groups working on consumption issues could learn from those who work on population issues? How about the reverse? Is there a positive vision of potential social changes, human values, policies and programs that would unite work in both areas?
This positive vision is simply this: a new mythology that re-embeds humans *in* Nature (rather than "above" it).
I, myself, would run like hell if I were ever chased by a grizzly bear. But that doesn't mean we should eliminate bears, lions, wolves, tigers, jaguars and any other species that actually eats humans.
While we have created a culture (and society) where individuals have at our fingertips the ability to extend our lives, the ability to nearly eliminate the death of our infants (should one choose to have them), nearly as much food as we can eat, etc., this doesn't mean we *must* make use of these things or that we *must* continue to think in these terms and continue to make policy in this direction.
This is a difficult (to say the least) transition. I don't have the answers as to how we're going to get beyond these modern wonders. I do know, however, that it starts with a new mythology, that is, with a new (old) notion of where we fit in Nature. Once we have adopted this new beacon, getting there will be as natural (if not as easy) as walking.
tim keating, Rainforest Relief, http://enviroweb.org/rainrelief, Brooklyn, NY
WOA!! Do we need your help! This is news we had no time to file properly. We are looking for a 'Mindset' section chief (volunteer) to organize this mess in a more logical fashion. To apply for the job, go ahead and reorganize this page (a wee bit of HTML knowledge required), and email it to me, HTML and all. Please maintain the current web site style.
March 22, 2001 Brain Food The Tragedy of Liberalism. In his 1968 classic, TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS, Garrett Hardin illustrates why liberty in the commons inevitably brings tragedy to all. Visualize a pasture as a system that is open to everyone. The carrying capacity of this pasture is 10 animals. Ten herdsmen are each grazing an animal to fatten up for market. In other words, the 10 animals are now consuming all the grass that the pasture can produce. Harry (one of the herdsmen) will add one more animal to the pasture if he can make a profit. He subtracts the original cost of the new animal from the expected sales price of the fattened animal and then considers the cost of the food. Adding one more animal will mean less food for each of the present animals, but since Harry only has only 1/10 of the herd, he has to pay only 1/10 of the cost. Harry decides to exploit the commons and the other herdsmen, so he adds an animal and takes a profit. Shrinking profit margins force the other herdsmen either to go out of business or continue the exploitation by adding more animals. This process of mutual exploitation continues until overgrazing and erosion destroy the pasture system, and all the herdsmen are driven out of business. February 24, 2001 WOA LTE A Comment for Today. by Ross McCluney. During the week following Dale Earnhart's death at the wheel of his race car on the Daytona speed track in early 2001, noted environmental analyst, journalist, and author Donella Meadows died of meningitis at age 59. Donella's life was one dedicated to protecting the Earth from the worst of human assaults, and to spreading the word as eloquently as possible through writing and teaching. She was effective at reaching millions of people with her biting satirical wit and penetrating analysis. Donella's death was reported quietly over the internet and in a scattering of newspaper articles. The moment of Earnhart's death was replayed over and over again in vivid color on most of the television networks. It was headlined in newspapers, and "the story" was covered repeatedly for more than a week following the unfortunate accident that killed him.
By most accounts Earnhart was a good guy. Yet the sport that was his life and livelihood glorifies one of the most destructive pieces of equipment ever put into the hands of the human. The automobile takes precious petroleum products-turned into fuel, plastic parts, and energy for manufacture and assembly-and spews out a variety of toxic substances into the air and onto the ground. Much of this is washed into water supplies. Automobile racing events are among the most concentrated forms of energy use by the populace that can be found. The energy to drive fans to the racetrack, to illuminate the area at night, and to fuel the racing cars, on a per capita and hourly basis, ranks this sport among the highest in energy use. The associated pollution is but a drop in the sea of emissions over the course of a year, but it symbolizes the most destructive aspects of the automobile as it enters the lungs of many of the spectators at racing events.
Few better examples of the misplaced values of our culture can be found. There was a time when the news media at least sought to report the most significant, truly newsworthy, events of the day. Perhaps we should be mourning not only Dale Earnhart and Donella Meadows, but the death of a comprehensive and effective news media in the U.S.
June 29, 2000 Financial Times Earth Charter to be Launched Today. The Earth Charter Initiative, which codifies principles for sustainable development, was 28 years in the making. The launch of the document occured in the Netherlands, the main Western country that "kept faith" in this "troubled project." The charter was supposed to have been agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, but disagreements between developed and developing countries on issues such as reproductive health stymied consensus. Steven Rockefeller, a philanthropist who chaired the charter's drafting committee, will begin a campaign for an international covenant based on the charter, to be adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2002. The charter contains 16 main principles to be promoted by businesses as a measure of sustainable development. The first four guiding principles are: Respect earth and life in all its diversity; Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love; Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable and peaceful; and Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations. unw