The Human Ecological Predicament: Wages of Self-Delusion | MAHB

GR: Here’s a thoughtful article about the absolute necessity to reject the global “growth at all costs” philosophy that dominates our businesses, governments, and churches. Because we have failed to choose our actions objectively, we are approaching major “tipping points” where choices will slip away. We might still avoid the crash by learning to use basic reasoning. Our children (and adults) should learn to recognize the many forms of faulty reasoning, the fallacies, that obscure truth. We must all learn the value of skepticism and we must learn to ask how (will we get Mexico to pay for the wall) and why (do we need a wall), and we must learn to insist on verifiable facts offered as proof.

The coming crash. (photographer unknown)

“Techno-industrial society is in dangerous ecological overshoot—the human ecological footprint is at least 60% larger than the planet can support sustainably (Wackernagel et al. 2002; Rees 2013; WWF 2016). The global economy is using even renewable and replenishable resources faster than ecosystems can regenerate and filling waste sinks beyond nature’s capacity to assimilate (Steffen et al. 2007; Rockström et al. 2009; Barnosky et al. 2012). (Even climate change is a waste management problem—carbon dioxide is the single greatest waste by weight of industrial economies.) Despite the accumulating evidence of impending crisis, the world community seems incapable of responding effectively. This situation is clearly unsustainable and, if present trends continue, will likely lead in this century to runaway climate change, the collapse of major biophysical systems, global strife and therefore diminished prospects for continued civilized existence (Tainter 1987; Diamond 2005; Turner 2014; Motesharrei et al. 2014).

“The proximate drivers are excess economic production/consumption and over-population—human impact on the ecosphere is a product of population multiplied by average per capita consumption—exacerbated by an increasingly global compound myth of perpetual economic growth propelled by continuous technological progress (Victor 2008; Rees 2013). While there is evidence of some ‘decoupling’ of economic production from nature, this is often an artifact of faulty accounting and trade (e.g., wealthy countries are ‘off-shoring’ their ecological impacts onto poorer countries). Overall, economic throughput (energy and material consumption and waste production) is increasing with population and GDP growth (Wiedmann et al 2013; Giljum et al. 2014). Consequently, carbon dioxide is accumulating at an accelerating rate in the atmosphere (NOAA 2017) and the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 sequentially shared the distinction of being the warmest years in the instrumental record (Hansen et al. 2017).

“There is widespread general support for the notion of ‘clean production and consumption’ but in present circumstances, this must soon translate into less production and consumption by fewer people (Rees 2014). It complicates matters that modern society remains highly dependent on abundant cheap energy still mostly supplied by carbon-based fuels. Despite rapid technological advances and falling costs, it is still not clear that renewable energy alternatives, including wind and photovoltaic electricity, can replace fossil fuels in such major uses as transportation and space/water heating in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, in the absence of effective carbon sequestration technologies, reducing fossil fuel use remains essential to avoiding catastrophic climate change. Resolving this energy-climate conundrum will require major conservation efforts, the prioritizing of essential non-substitutable uses of fossil fuels and the banning of frivolous ones.

Source: The Human Ecological Predicament: Wages of Self-Delusion | MAHB

Avoiding the Ecocidal “Black Friday” — Growthbusters and Good Books

GR:  Here’s some great Thanksgiving entertainment that I plan to spring on my guests ( 🙂 ).  It’s a bit of a test?

Is a system that celebrates, and depends on, more consumers doing more consuming really healthy and sustainable?

“I am happy to share a note from film-maker Dave Gardner today, in advance of the so-called “Black Friday” event on November 25th:

“This year I’m making it easier than ever for you to see and share the film, Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth. From November 23 to December 2 you can stream the film at any time, at no cost. You can watch it on any connected device. You can invite friends over for a viewing party at a day and time that suits you. You can elect your growth-addicted elected officials, journalists, clergy, and college professors to see the film. If you don’t want them in your living room, just share this free screening link and urge them to watch:”

“For those of you who simply can’t resist spending some money the day after Thanksgiving, perhaps an investment in the renewable resource of a good book would make sense. To that end, I have included a review of a 2014 title called “Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth.” –Joe Bish, Population Media Center (Continue for the free-screening link:  Avoiding the Ecocidal “Black Friday” — Growthbusters and Good Books).

Biodiversity emerges as key U.N. development goal – The Korea Herald

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province ― The 12th meeting of members of the Convention of Biological Diversity closed Friday with the global community showing its commitment to increasing funding significantly to achieve conservation targets.The members…


GR:  Around 25,000 participants and observers from 164 countries agreed to ask the UN to emphasize biodiversity as an essential component of sustainable development. Then everyone shut their eyes, patted herself or himself on the back, and went home to continue business as usual:  Growth.

Half a century ago, Garrett Hardin commented that “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron. The participants in the CBD should be reading Hardin. Here’s a quote from a tribute to Hardin by John Cairns (2004: that relates to one of the CBD’s recommendations (the biobridge).

“He (Hardin) was a strong supporter of and commentator on Kenneth Boulding’s dismal and utterly dismal theories of economics. The dismal theory states that, if the only check on the growth of population is starvation and misery, then no matter how favorable the environment or how advanced the technology, the population will grow until it is miserable and starves. The utterly dismal theory states that, if the only check on population growth is starvation and misery, then any technological improvement will have the ultimate effect of increasing the sum of human misery since it permits a larger population to live in precisely the same state of misery and starvation as before the change. Although Boulding first proposed both these theories in 1956 and Hardin reinforced them in 1968, the dangerous expectation still exists that a technological solution can be found to every problem.”

Can We Feed 3 Billion More People and Save the Environment?

Feeding 3 Billion More People

worldpopThe U. S. Census Bureau uses world data to estimate that in 2150, Earth’s human population will reach 9 billion and stay around that number for the next few centuries.  But must we stop?  Can’t we go on to 12 billion?  In an article published in America’s leading academic journal, Science, a group of scientists led by Paul C. West say yes.  Here is the full abstract of their article:

“Achieving sustainable global food security is one of humanity’s contemporary challenges. Here we present an analysis identifying key “global leverage points” that offer the best opportunities to improve both global food security and environmental sustainability. We find that a relatively small set of places and actions could provide enough new calories to meet the basic needs for more than 3 billion people, address many environmental impacts with global consequences, and focus food waste reduction on the commodities with the greatest impact on food security. These leverage points in the global food system can help guide how nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, citizens’ groups, and businesses prioritize actions” (Paul C. West, et al, Science 345: 325-328).

The editors of Science had this to say:  “Keeping societies stable and managing Earth’s resources sustainably depend on doing a good, steady job producing and distributing food. West et al. asked what combinations of crops and regions offer the best chance of progress. Their analysis focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution, water use, and food waste. They identify regions that are likely to yield the best balance between applying fertilizer to increase crop yields versus the resulting environmental impact” (editor, Science 345: 325).

Of course, there will be problems finding the leadership needed to pull the levers the authors identify.  If we can find them, however, perhaps we can then begin looking for more solutions that will let us sustain our growth far into the future.  Some pessimists have pointed out that we can’t keep growing because we would eventually reach the point where we would shoulder-to-shoulder cover the planet.  Well, we have learned it is possible to live and reproduce in tight spaces.  Besides, what about adapting to living standing on someone’s shoulders (or being stood upon)?  We could double the bleaker’s so-called space limitation.

New Housing With Uncertain Water Supplies

New Housing With Uncertain Water Supplies

Despite the uncertainties, the effort of Paul C. West his coauthors should encourage renewed efforts by developers who might have felt a tingle of concern that growth and profits could slow.  Their new slogan might become:  “Don’t say slow, science says grow.” ;-).