Friday, December 12, 2008

Do future generations a favour: don't breed.

The “global economic crisis” has diverted public attention from climate change. Governments the world over are responding as if the current situation is just an extreme version of the traditional business cycle. And perhaps it is.

But consider this: the conventional economic thinking is based on continually increasing consumption. The crisis is considered to be the result of reduced consumption, and economic stimulus packages are proposed to get those spending habits back up there where they belong, and then all will be right with the world.

This world view is so obviously short-sighted and just plain wrong that it’s clear to me that our species must be wearing some kind of intellectual blinders. We as a species just can’t accept that the world has limited resources, and we’re reaching the end of them. We have too many people wanting to consume too much.

What we really need to do is come to grips with the reality that we’re living in an unsustainable fashion. It’s all very well to want everyone on the planet to have a single-family dwelling, a car in the driveway, a wide-screen TV in the living room, and a refrigerator filled with fresh food all year round. But this could only happen if we had maybe one-tenth the population we already have. And we would also have to replace all our fossil-fuel energy sources with something sustainable.

Climate change is only going to make things worse. In a generation, we will have world-wide shortages of food and water – of course, we already have these shortages in many places. At that point, the car and the TV will be irrelevant.

The bottom line is, if our civilizations are to survive for another couple of centuries, we need to do three things:
1. Consume less.
2. Reduce our population.
3. Use only sustainable energy sources.

We can do this the hard way, which probably will destroy our so-called civilizations: war, famine, pestilence (and of course death), or the unlikely way: global international cooperation to reduce consumption, halt population growth, develop sustainable energy sources, and accept (for the industrialized world) a greatly reduced standard of living. No government anywhere could get elected on that platform, so the hard landing (or bottomless fall) is the only likely outcome.

Read Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse.

And remember: Murphy was an optimist.

1 comment:

Shaun Bala said...

So true. Conspicuous consumption is a trademark of our capitalistic markets. Perpetual growth is a necessity, but the shrinking natural resources seem to be just an inconvenience. The movement towards minimizing our footprint must accelerate, especially in North America. I really admire the european approach: Smaller size, highly efficient and well designed. For europe, land is at such a premium, whereas in North America we haven't reached that level of population density yet.

PS Something in your blog crashes my firefox browser. Works fine in IE oddly enough.