Monday, October 20, 2008

Old News

While cleaning out some files recently I came across a newspaper article dated 1994. "Earth has too many people" shouted the headline. A study at Cornell University led by Professor David Pimentel had concluded that the human population must fall substantially to an optimum of — get this! — between one and two billion. With this population the Earth can provide the water and fertile land necessary for a diverse, nutritious diet of plant and animal products. Otherwise enormous numbers of people will live in misery, poverty, disease and starvation. The study stated that the population could be brought to below two billion by 2100 if each couple had only 1.5 children.
Similar studies by the United Nations, the World Wildlife Foundation and Professor William Rees and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia also conclude that human population exceeds the carrying capacity of the Earth. They feel that a sustainable human population is in the four to six billion range. These are trusted and respected organizations with learned, reputable researchers. The validity of their studies is not in doubt.
Yet their results are buried on the back pages, ignored and treated as mere curiosity. No one is taking action. Instead, we march in the opposite direction. The world's population has increased by just over one billion since the 1994 study, and the count keeps ticking upward.
Signs of a teetering world are everywhere: war in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, food riots, peak oil, fisheries wiped out and now the biggest recession since the 1930s. This can't possibly end well.
How long can the pressure keep building? What will it take to get us talking seriously about population?

3 comments: said...

More old news.........of an economic, not ecologic, nature that concerns "runaway" human greed within a culture of corruption.

Please consider that which could be a product of arrogance and also shameful behavior.

Our lexicon of business activities is being expanded daily, thanks to the "wonder boys" on Wall Street. We are learning about derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, recapitalization, puts, short selling and so on. We are gaining a new vocabulary from the recent meltdown of the financial system and expected slowdown of the real economy worldwide.

Where did this debacle begin? Well, it began in the center of human community’s banking and investment houses in the financial district of NYC. Supposedly, the "brightest and best" among us go to Wall Street, know what they are doing and do the right thing. Unfortunately, such assumptions turn out to be colossal mistakes.

How did this calamity occur and why is the human family in such dire economic straits? It appears that grotesque greed and a culture of corruption have come to dominate significant operating systems of the global political economy.

Powerful people in high offices within huge business institutions with access to great wealth are recklessly and deleteriously manipulating the unbridled expansion of the global economy in the small, finite planetary home God blesses us to inhabit.

Self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe have surreptitiously "manufactured" a sub prime "asset bubble" and perversely fostered its uneconomic growth within the world economy. Not unexpectedly, this asset bubble did what bubbles do. The sub prime bubble burst and made a mess. Global credit markets have frozen, stock prices are tumbling and the value of the dollar is gyrating.

Evidently organizers, managers and whiz kids overseeing the global economy, and the unraveling {ie, deleveraging} of the worldwide sub prime swindle, are running the artificially designed financial system of the global economy as a pyramid scheme. This is to say that the international financial system is being operated so that most of the wealth funneled pyramidally into the hands of a small minority of people at the top of the world economy where this wealth is accumulated and consolidated. Note that thirty percent of annual corporate profits end up in the accounts of a tiny number of people. At the same time, the vast majority of people on Earth, near the bottom of the global economic pyramid, are left with very little wealth. Does the economy of the family of humanity exist primarily to provide wealth to the already stupendously wealthy? The "bankstas" among us evidently think so.

In the 1980s, this extremely inequitable method of distributing wealth and arranging business activities was called a "trickle down" economy. We have been repeatedly told how this 'rational' economic scheme is good because it "raises all ships." And yet, from my limited scope of observation, the billion people living on resources valued at less than one dollar per day and the additional 2.7 billion people being sustained on two dollars per day of resources now appear to be stuck in squalid conditions. The 'ships' carrying these billions of less fortunate people {ie, more people than lived on Earth in the year of my birth} do not appear to be lifting them out of poverty.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001 said...

NO bail-out from global warming...

There's no bailout for the next crisis

Monday, October 20, 2008 The Oregonian

The recent haggling over how to solve the nation's economic crisis seems to have done little to ease the anxieties of either Wall Street or Main Street. And with good reason: Intuitively, we know we haven't seen the worst of it yet.

Watching a lifetime of stock options head south? Worried about where you'll find the money to pay for college or about the spiraling costs of health care? Certainly nothing could hurt worse than a foreclosure, could it? Well, maybe it could. If $700 billion sounds like a lot, try fathoming $9 trillion -- roughly 13 times the cost of today's hotly debated bailout. That's the projected cost of letting global climate change go unaddressed within this decade.

The thorough shakeup of today's economic climate foreshadows an even more disastrous global crisis heading our way. The same belief in unlimited, unchecked growth (some would say outright greed) that fattened our economy on a diet of junk bonds and hollow lending is also strip-mining our planet's environment of the currency that nature safely invested for us over millions of years, and upon which all life -- including our own -- depends.

The concept of peak oil is not just some naysayers' delusion. According to the U.S. Energy Department's own findings, commonly called the Hirsch report and issued in 2005, it's an unavoidable reality, one that is hurtling toward us faster than we know what to do about.

But like the blind eye that was turned on the proliferation of high-risk, foolhardy mortgages in the midst of a slowing economy, we've bolstered our bravado in the face of such warnings while enthusing about drilling offshore and in the arctic.

While we've been busy digging our fossil-fuel foundations out from under us with the same kind of naive bluster and faith in infinite growth that gutted the economy, we've also been busy ruining things at the top as our upper atmosphere becomes choked with carbon dioxide, leaving us in an environmental demise of our own doing.

When it comes to the economy, a few sleights of hand and a heavy toll on taxpayers, all partisan bickering aside, can be called upon to help us avert disaster and restore faith in the unlimited expansion model. But when it comes to nature's bank, cashing out is forever. No amount of midnight meetings, government-ordered buyouts or credit freezes can save a habitat laid fallow by years of unregulated dumping of chemical waste, nor can they lower our thermostats to an inhabitable temperature in the face of global warming.

Sound policy and the pursuit of new technologies might ameliorate some of our excesses, helping to slow down the rate of climate change and postponing the date of disaster. But like the banking and credit crisis that arrived to the surprise of so many experts -- despite the many warnings sounded years earlier -- environmental failure is going to rear its ugly head someday.

And when mother earth forecloses on us, there will be nowhere else to go.

Lisa Weasel is an associate professor of biology at Portland State University and a board member of The Greenhouse Network. said...

Please understand that Dr. Lisa Weasel is an honorable scientist. She neither hides, nor hides from, the empirical evidence to which she refers in her letter, "There's no bailout for the next crisis". At least to me, her behavior is exemplary. We need to see her example displayed in the actions of many other scientists who presently seem to be unwilling to communicate what their science tells them is real and true.

So far as I can tell, Dr. Weasel does not formulate policy or engage in action planning. She does the work scientists are supposed to be doing: helping people see the world we inhabit as it is.

Of course, her reporting is off-putting precisely because the message from science is apparently unforeseen, distinctly discomforting and most unwelcome.

Reports of good science, when that science is new, is routinely difficult to acknowledge, much less address. But that is what we are called upon to do. Grasping good science and adjusting to whatsoever is somehow real is required of us, I suppose. Nothing else will do as an adequate substitute. It appears that the human community could soon have genuine challenges to overcome.

Despite all the efforts of denialists and naysayers, scientists need to do their duty, as Lisa Weasel is doing, by urging the family of humanity to open our eyes and see what looms ominously before us on the far horizon. By avoiding science, we are losing the exquisite value found in one of God’s gifts to humanity.

Ignoring Dr. Weasel's science cannot be allowed to prevail, even though her reasonable and sensible evidence comes into conflict with what culture prescribes as real and true. Is it possible that the standard for determining what is real and true in our culture is often this: whatsoever is widely shared, consensually validated and judged to be economically expedient, politically convenient, socially agreeable is true and real? In that case, Dr. Weasel's science does present our culture with evidence of inconvenient truths.

Each culture presents its membership with much that is real and also much less that is illusory. From the standpoint of a psychologist, because humans are shaped early and pervasively by cultural transmissions in our perception of reality, it looks like an evolutionary challenge for humankind to see the world as it is.

It appears that cultural transmissions or memes generated within a culture may at times mesmerize human beings in that widely shared and closely held memes occasionally "produce" illusions of the world as it is. Dr. Weasel's research seems to be disturbing in some basic way because her work comes into conflict with certain culturally derived notions held by leaders of our culture about what it means to be human and about the "placement" of humankind within the natural order of living things. Unexpected cientific evidence of this particular kind is uniformly difficult for people to see, I suppose, because such research undercuts the 'pedestal' from which we arrogantly look upon other creatures and nature itself. We humans may introject culturally biased and scientifically unsupported transmissions (i.e., memes) that confuse human reasoning and promote a certain cortical conceitedness which is not helpful when trying to see what is real or to recognize certain requirements of practical reality. For a very long time cultural transmissions or memes appear to have been passed from generation to generation, distorting human perceptions and making it difficult for us to see a scientific evidence for what is real about it.

When a psychological practitioner like myself thinks a patient is suffering from a mental illness, that determination is a matter of evidence-based clinical judgment. However, general standards of what is normal are not clinical judgments (and sometimes do not objectively correlate with reality), but are often unverified, specious 'evidence' of cultural norms and social conventions that contain occasional misperceptions of what is real. Because some misperceptions are valued by those who share them, these memes get passed along as if they represent reality.

In cases of deeply disturbed mental patients, they are inclined to distort reality so drastically that their distortions are not widely shared and closely held by other people. Instead, these mistaken impressions are labeled as examples of craziness and disregarded. By contrast, human aggregations in governments, social organizations and cultures appear not to misperceive and misrepresent reality so sharply, yet distortions of what is somehow real by aggregates of people are still believed to be true and maintained as if factual.

A term of art in psychology is useful here, folie a deux. The term means that two people share an identical distortion of reality. This understanding leads to other terms, folie a deux cent million for a social order or folie a deux billion for a culture. These terms refer to misperceived aspects of reality commonly shared and held by many people in aggregates. One way to define the highest standard of what is normal for the individual and for people in aggregations is in terms of being able to see what is free of illusion, what is in scientific fact real. Hence, in taking note of the process of humankind becoming evermore aware of whatsoever is somehow real by means of the acquisition of good scientific evidence through time, we can track the evolution of science.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001