Monday, 19 July 2010


Post by Ian.

I saw a sign up at my daughter`s school the other day:`Save The Planet`. A common enough phrase in this environmentally conscious culture of ours. Teaching the children to save the planet has to be a good thing. After all, we`re affecting the environment and the planet is doomed unless we do something about it. We know this for sure don`t we ? Yes, there are some people who deny it but these people are just misled, in denial, greedy (delete as appropriate).

Well, what if I tell you that the planet is in no danger from us whatsoever ? That whatever we do to the planet it will eventually recover. Would you put me in the category of denying the facts above ?

Well, it`s true. The planet is in no danger. It`s us that are in danger. All talk of environmental impact and climate change affects just one thing;the biosphere will need to survive. If humanity were to die off and stop polluting and messing around with things, the planet would recover. A new balance would be found. A new order established. We put ourselves in danger of distinction with our actions. So the slogan should not be `Save The Planet`; it should be `Save Us`.

So we can fix it. Right ? I mean we`re recycling and setting up sustainable growth ?

Sorry, nope. All we`re doing is lessening our individual impact. It`s not enough. As a culture we are sleepwalking our way to our own destruction, and this cultural outlook is global. Why? Because we`re not tackling the real issue. To paraphrase Joss Wheddon (Firefly):we are too many, and we`re using the earth up. We continue to happily convert biomass to human biomass. We happily consume finite resources, blissfully uncaring of the long-term outlook. Even `green` technologies use rare earth minerals, so called because they are rare, and therefore ultimately unsustainable.

Calculated on 2003 average global impact, the Optimal Population Trust ( state that sustainable global population is somewhere around 5.1 billion. That`s more or less the current state of play. However in order to get this avaerage, people live in dire poverty to give us our western lifestyles. For a modest global lifestyle (3.3 global hectares per person or ghap per cap), allowing for 12% biodiversity, the susutainable population figure drops to 3 billion. Less than half of what it is today. In the UK our lifestyle (5.5 gha/cap) can sustainably support around 17 million people. There are around 65 million of us.

So, why doesn`t anyone hear the politicians talking of this ? Because the whole of our economy is based on growth. The people of this working generation pay the pensions of those who have gone before us. We pay the health care, the government salaries, MP`s expenses. In short, it`s not in their interest and is an unpopular message. It involves telling people that they will not only have to live within their means, but reduce their lifestyle. It`s telling the finance people that recession is a good thing and we need to cut back. No, if anything is to be done it will be down to us as individuals.

Something to think about !


  1. Well said Ian ! I have long held the view that the economy is based on an ultimately unsustainable reliance on growth. 'Progress' - 'Onward and upward for ever'.
    However, what goes up must eventually come down. We can either steer ourselves gently back down in an orderly fashion or wait for the inevitable painful crash.
    The best things in life are still free (at the moment)- we should savour them.

  2. I think it's a wider cultural problem. Modern society, which has now become pretty much global, seems to work on social problems with the mantra of "if it doesn't work, do it more". More police, more prisons, more government, more initiatives or programmes.

    I'm a fan of Daniel Quinn, a writer who has turned his interest in anthropology on his native culture. He took that step back and wrote Ishmael (filmed as Instinct, starring Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr). I side with his analysis of the problem. As a culture we have this mentality of there being "one true way" for humans to live. This being our modern lifestyle. We think everyone should have this and that it's the only way for humans to live. We forget that this way of life we're on is only 10,000 years old and that humans have 250,000 years of history. So, what did they do for the other 240,000 years?

  3. Wise words Ian. The penny has still to drop I suspect, and we must all take our share of responsibility.I was a student when the gaia movement first began to take root (no pun intended !). The world was going to end unless we all changed our ways. It didn`t of course and over 30 years on too few are energised by the urgency this issue requires; it`s still a (too)distant prospect. Regretably, it`s our children and grandchildren who will pick up the tab, and it`s they to whom your `Save Ourselves` most alludes.

    There is obviously a moral responsibility as well in my opinion a spiritual purpose, to be more proactive individually and as a community in this, the greatest test to face the human race. Small actions collectively are significant; political pressure through active communities on governments do work.

    I suspect the most significant acts ultimately will be those that we all take that infer less greed, a willingness to share resources, a genuine concern for our fellow human no matter what their status, creed, colour or religion. Only then will we truly embrace the notion that their is unity in (and because of) diversity, and that mutual respect is a very necessary part of the collective whole.

    Interesting challenge to us all !


  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Can't disagree with anything you have said, Ian, but we have known much of this for some considerable time, and nothing changes in people's outlook and attitude. Will it ever? Sorry to be so pessimistic, but I am afraid that, in order to keep sane, I frequently dismiss this whole sorry business from my mind and simply try to play my own small (minute and meaningless?) part in trying not to demand too much. Graham

  6. Comment posted by Pete.

    It seems to me that we want the best of all worlds, irrespective of the practicalities or the nature of humanity. How pointless it is to base any solution to combating "over exploitation and greed" on the human race changing into something which they are not, or scenarios that cannot be implemented. Often the things we do are simply ways of making ourselveds feel a little less guilty about the part we play. Most of our moral stands do not bare close scrutiny, even if taken sincerely. Each person on this planet is contributing to the problem by their very existence. To tinker may have an impact but it will be small and transitory. If this is all we can do then, yes, lets make the biggest impact we can. But in the end the only solution is massive population decline. If it happens it will be done in the face of, and despite of, us striving for growth and expansion, each generation freshly stamping their right and need to survive and to be the best that they can. We pray to God to spare humanity from disasters, yet the world needs a God to wipe most of us away. I am not going to worry too much. The biosphere needs only a few remaining starting blocks to rebuild any world that we might eventually leave. The resources we consume will return back to the earth. In reality, we just move them round a little. We are a blip all be it a temporarily destructive one.


  7. Pete, I agree that the only solution is population decline. However, this can be managed over the next few generations if people stick to having only one or two children. Yes, the things we do as individuals are a drop in the ocean - but we are many, and many drops make a big pond. All we need are enough people doing the right things and trying to lessen their individual impact.

    I disagree with the analysis of humanity only being out for "over exploitation and greed". This is our current culture, stemming from the "totalitarian agriculturalist" mentality. There are still a few cultures around that don't do this, and we need to learn from them while they're still around. But not blindly following them. Their way isn't for us, we all need to find our own path in this and recognise that one size may not fit all. That's where we went wrong before. What we do need to do is to work out how we can balance the modern benefits of healthcare and technology with the old virtues of taking only what is needed and leaving the rest.

    Our natural concern is still with the "tribe" or extended family. We don't relate very well to people in populations more than 200. As population increases force us in to ever growing cities and towns, the cracks begin to show.