I had the good fortune a few months ago to meet a translator for the UN, she was translating at COP20 in Peru. COP 20 was trying to come to an agreement on targets for reduction of carbon emissions, or the like.
So, living half way up the highest tropical mountain in the world, and therefore being somewhat “out of the loop” I innocently asked her; “So what measures are the UN considering for reducing our population?”
She, even more innocently, replied; “Oh no, you don´t seem to understand, it isn´t a summit on population reduction, it is a summit on reducing Carbon Emissions.”
Me; “Yes, I know that, but how on earth do they think they can reduce emissions as our population continues to increase? Surely they recognize the underlying cause of global climate change as overpopulation of the planet? Shouldn´t we be treating this cause rather than the symptom? If a patient is losing weight, because they have a tapeworm, do we feed them more, or do we treat the tapeworm?”
So there you have my take on it, keep it simple stupid, these bureaucrats seem to be overcomplicating it.
Instill population reduction measures, through education, and our planet will slowly, but surely get better. Of course rather strong assumption here, that we haven´t passed the tipping point already. But in true British fashion, just because a battle is already lost, doesn´t mean that it isn´t worth fighting anyway.
“So why aren´t we doing this?” I hear you ask. Well here we come to a rather painful truth. Continued economic growth is built into the macro economic model of the western world, changing that model would be very painful for lots of very influential people, and the rest of us too. Sorry, I´ve lost you. Let me tell you a little story to make it more digestible.
It was October 1994, I had just started a course in Economics and Accountancy at Bristol University, UK. YAWN, lost you again. I had studied Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths at A-levels, and won a Senior exhibition in them. So I wash´t too shoddy at the sciences, was I bordering on genius? Perhaps, but then I would never admit to that and definitely would never bring it up.
Anyway so there I am sat in the Physics lecture hall, with about 200 students, just two weeks into a course I had no idea about and certainly had not yet been indoctrinated into, listening to Dr. Nigel Duck lecturing on “a” macro economic model, which was based on continued growth.
I was kind of listening, and then the alarm bells went off. No not the fire alarm, the ones in my head, dumb arse. So I put my hand up, and wasn´t even noticed.
Me; “Ahhhhem, professor, quick question.” hand still in the air like some pre-pubescent kid.
Me:” I think this macro economic model is broken.”
Him; “Really? and your name?”
Him;”and how long have you been studying economics Charlie?”
Me (undeterred) “About 2 weeks sir.” (wasn´t I brought up well!)
Him; “Ok go on Charlie, let´s hear it.”
Me; ” May I ask a couple of questions first?””Yes, sure, fire away.””Does continued growth require more and more people?” “yes””Consuming more and more resources?””Yes””On a finite planet?””Yes, I suppose so.””Well then it is broken then, isn´t it!””How so?””Well if you take this to its logical conclusion, then the planet will be so overpopulated, with nowhere for us to even stand, with all the habitats cut down, with all the resources used up and no oxygen for us to even breathe”
“No Charlie, this model has always worked and will continue to work, this is the macroeconomic model for the entire western world. May we now continue”…. indoctrination, no logical response, as long as we are covering the course material.
I felt like saying; “Well no actually, I would really like resolution on this, sooner or later this will be the downfall of everything” of course I didn´t say anything, but I certainly didn´t feel foolish either.
Just look at us 20 years later…… how are we looking? Does our macro economic world look quite so robust now?
Let´s get one thing STRAIGHT!!!
The economy of the planet REQUIRES the ecology of the planet for it to function. One would say that the ecology is a constraint for the economy. A constraint that we are fast approaching.
The ecology of the planet DOES NOT REQUIRE the economy of the planet for it to function.
So let´s get our priorities absolutely clear. ECOLOGY #1
ECONOMY a not even close #2.
Will we suffer by reducing our population and shifting to a different model? YES we will suffer a lot. Does it have to be done? YES sooner or later, and the sooner we do it, the less painful it will be.
Let´s base the model on an acceptable level of welfare /happiness and not maximization of profits, and therefore the continued growth model.
The new model would need a lot of work, and a lot of people working on it (even) brighter than me, it would be difficult to design, and even harder to implement. Does that mean that we should´t bother? Hell no!!!
Don´t get me onto the coming collapse that I predicted at 19 years of age, or the book Collapse by Jared Diamond, or the book Emergency by Neil Stauss ( a bit off a comedy – but one very succinct point). Or the state of the Oceans, or the specific heat capacity of water and the latent heat of fusion of water.
Did you know?
1.) that the energy it takes to change a block of ice at 0c to water at 0c will heat the same water up to 79c. That water expands significantly as it heats up. That a thermopile is created on the oceans over a certain temperature.
2.) That ice reflects 4 times more solar energy than water.
do you understand the implications for our planet? you got me back onto tipping point again! Yawn…….