the Whitehead debates

Having thunk on it overnight, I’m not so grumpy at John Whitehead. He is, after all, only calling for a debate, and I guess you can’t blame him for addressing the opening remarks to ‘Business as Usual’. Have a look at the following, which was my recent take on the population angle.

So we need a population debate, and a resources debate, and a sustainability debate, and an obligations to future generations debate. Actually, we only need the latter, the others are just sub-topics.

The yardstick is simple:      Will they thank us for taking this decision?

We have to remember that all past civilisations fell over through a lack of resources – strange as it may seem to financially-trained-only folk. Rome ran out of firewood within transportable distance, the Maya crammed millions onto a small space, fed on local corn. Depleted and died. The Greenland Norse failed to adapt to depletion (firewood included) and died with coin (every one still there) in hand. Britain only got ‘Great’ by ripping into the resources of other countries (like Rhodes in South Africa).

The problem is that we are running the ‘overshoot’ experiment globally, with nowhere left to extract.

At the same time, we want to increase population, consumption per-head of that population, and under a sinking lid – which we have already hit. This while degrading and depleting – in other words, without paying OUR way.

Another approach is required. We have put ourselves in the position of a God, having acquired the power to annihilate all species on the planet, including our own. We therefore have to be as responsible, as we would have wanted a God to be. If we don’t, we fail our obligation to future generations of our species, as well to future generations of other species.

Make no mistake about it – exponential growth is expressed in terms of doubling-time. We can’t ‘double’ almost anything planet-wise from here, and the attempt will curtail the chances of those future grandchildren to survive at all.

I know this comes as an unwelcome shock to folk who thought that to fiscally provide for their kids was enough, but you can’r eat money. You need an intact biosphere, and until that is the overriding goal, we are failing them.

Let’s be having it.


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