Throwing Our Energy at Impossible DreamsPolitics / Social Issues Dec 18, 2009 - 01:15 AM GMT
P.F. Henshaw writes: In the haystack of contentious arguments at Copenhagen it seems only the occasional unofficial commentary pointed to the real solvable source of our monumental collision with the limits of the earth. Somehow in the process of growing ever bigger, mankind got "big", and continuing to grow still bigger is optional. Yes, it sort of "happened naturally", and is also natural for us to be a bit confused about the whole turn of events it precipitates, but it is still also definitely our own choice to be doing it too, and we're simply hiding from the problem it creates on the whole.
It may be easy to question the morality of how the Chinese chose to limit their population growth by limiting personal freedoms, but did face the challenge. You really can't argue with the fact that virtually everyone else is just ignoring that same profound moral dilemma, that affluence naturally multiplies people. Instead we have a world desperately trying to mitigate climate change with an unqualified commitment to of sustaining the accelerating growth affluence forever.
Our technique for doing that is also our choice, trying to decrease our impacts on the earth by multiplying wealth more efficiently. What that actually does is feed our appetites at multiplying rates for profit as our first and last priority. It somewhat reduces the growth rate of our multiplying impacts, instead of reducing them, to then shortly make living on earth entirely unprofitable. Though it's completely voluntary and purposeful, I'm sure everyone swept up in steering the planet in that direction intends something rather different than the consequence of making all our problems ever more insolvable.
People even mostly know and understand that at natural growth limits, as strains multiply, the cheapest way to reduce your strains and waste of energy is ALWAYS to just skip the option of adding to your investments in expansion. If the house needs a roof and another floor might make it unstable, build the roof! That trick is even seen in nature's greatest success stories. Every organism that survives its own explosive growth from a single cell uses that as its way of bringing its own growth to a smooth and sustainable climax, for example!
Anything that reaches its climax at a peak of vitality does so by ending its self-investment in growth at the time its design is complete and worth sustaining. Our economic rule has been closer to "every good thing must be discarded". The alternative is to just turn off the growth pumps when they start to cause trouble, and sort things out to find what's worth keeping. That's the whole formula for sustainability for so very many big and small things people do for themselves, and that we rely on in things that take care of themselves in nature too.
Still, where is the cognitive path? Humanity clearly believes in and is devoting its most concentrated efforts on making its growth machine more efficient, to grow its way out of the earth's ever more severe physical constraints...
Growing your way out of environmental constraints is a plan that does work splendidly sometimes, as for a little chick inside it's egg, yes, or an infant in the womb. Then bursting from severe environmental constraints reveals fields of grain and new worlds of choices waiting, for which the new organism only has a limited appetite. The plan to just crash your limits often enough also works OK in pursuing "the impossible dream" in the worlds of ideas, within the 'noosphere', where the only real limit is imagination and failures of imagination are of little real physical consequence.
The physical world is different though. We now have a whole planet of leaders who believe we only need to physically grow our economies ever faster to burst out of the limits of an entire planet! They truly act as if wishing we had the limitless resources and freedoms of the past would surely cause them to reappear. That's the worst kind of fundamentalist delusion, a most extreme sort of misguided sophistry.
Is it a mass hysteria? Is it a case of worldwide Alzheimer's disease, leading us to withdraw into our emotional detachment from the natural world and bumble around waving amazingly clever self-deceptions.., like growth to reduce impacts? I wonder, instead of creating ever more dramatic diversions in response to our ever more desperate situations, could we 'wake up' as from a dream? It would be a great deal less expensive, in fact. Could we just shift the use of our creative powers to discovering this new reality we find, that we've clearly seen approaching for decades of decades?
There's also a need to help people understand why efficiency , productivity, hard work and big families used to be so good for everything. They once both relieved burdens and provided freedoms for people directly benefiting from them, but also created wealth and opportunity for everyone else too. That was the magic of economic growth. The problem now is that the very same things have the reverse effect, and multiply complications and constraints for everyone.
I think that's what has everyone fooled, that as mankind proceeded to get bigger and bigger we silently crossed a threshold of becoming "big", say between 50 and 75 years ago. After that, quite unnoticed, our normal way of relieving burdens on ourselves, hard work, productivity and efficiency, started ever more dominantly multiplying burdens on each other and the earth... More growth now pushes everyone all ever harder against nature's limits instead of giving everyone more freedoms.
Continuing as we always did, now that the responses of the planet have so dramatically changed meanings, seems to be how we ended up trying to reduce our burdens on the earth by multiplying them! In a world as changed as ours is, living in the past or dreaming of returning to the past, as all the world's leaders promote, is really a kind of dementia and disorientation. Nature changed her orientation and we just didn't notice...! Just pausing to learn about this unfamiliar place and our unexpected arrival, might be a more productive diversion than arguing about how to get our vehicle going ever faster again. We're marooned, as it were, on a part of the planet we never saw before, and it's a bit of luck really too. We're apparently both nearly out of gas and saved from heading over a cliff only by few flat tires and grinding gears in the transmission.
Thanks to Emily S in Massachusetts
(China Daily 12/10/2009 page10)
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