Dr. Albert Bartlett has brilliantly noted: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
We are the first generation who inhabits a world in the near vertical stretch of exponential growth in every sector of human society. No (previous) generation in the history of our species has ever experienced this reality. We are currently living through a historically brief phenomenon, which is wholly unsustainable, and which in all probability, has only one outcome.
No one in their right mind wants to believe any of this to be true.
– Daniel Drumright
Nevertheless, it is true.
It is time to face the reality of our situation, and make the tough choices. The first choice is: are we willing to recognize that there are physical realities that are not subject to manipulation by science, technology, faith or hope?
If not, then we need do nothing, and “what will be, will be.”
If so, then there are some other things we need to acknowledge:
– We are at an unavoidable turning point in human history, and our actions now will determine whether or not human civilization, and even the human race, will last past the current generation.
– Human civilization worldwide is based on the exploitation of non-renewable resources. Many of these resources are now running out.
– Anyone who consumes more than they produce is being subsidized, usually by a combination of other people’s efforts and cheap energy.
– We are running out of cheap energy. At the levels we currently use energy, there is no functional replacement for our major source of cheap energy (petroleum) available. There is no prospect of a replacement for petroleum in the foreseeable future – not solar, not wind, not nuclear fission or fusion, not coal, not tidal – no source at all.
– Based on what we know of the natural dynamic balance of the natural world, in any sound vision of sustainability there will be only a fraction of the current human population.
So, what can we do?
We can change the way we live. Starting today.
We all live in a web of possibility. There are things we can do and things we cannot do. Every time we make a decision we change the web.
If we all decided tomorrow that we should park our cars and walk to work we could not do it. Most of us live too far a distance from work to walk there daily. What we can do is look for work (or create a new job) that we can walk to.
If we all decided tomorrow that we would stop funding military activities throughout the world we could not do it, because we no longer have the ability to control the parts of our governments that makes those decisions. What we can do is elect different people to office, or better yet, rebuild community from the local level so that we take back control of our lives and our governments.
If we all decided tomorrow that we would have no more than one child, those of us with more than one child would be making the decision too late. And while it is conceivable that we could kill all those “extra” children, I think most of us would find that unacceptable. What we can do is change the social contract so that having only one child per couple is the norm. (If, for four generations, each couple had only one child, the human population would drop to one sixteenth, or 6.25% of its current size. That population may well be sustainable.)
If we all decided tomorrow that we would not buy anything made from plastic, nor use any containers made with plastic, we probably could not do it. What we can do is pay attention to what we buy and what we use, avoid plastic whenever possible, and let our preferences and buying decisions be known.
If we all decided tomorrow that we would repair things rather than replace them we could not always do it. What we can do is, when we buy new (or better yet, used) things, select those that will last for a long time, and can be repaired if and when they need it.
Each action we take influences the web of possibility. When we take responsibility for our decisions we make better decisions. When we avoid using plastic we make it more possible for others to make things that do not contain plastic, supporting the use of renewable, rather than non-renewable resources. When we walk to work instead of drive we make it more possible for others to walk also, and we encourage allocation of resources to support walkers in preference to drivers. We also cut down on air pollution, which helps restore clean air, and hence, supports better health for all. When we prefer locally made products we help create local jobs.
If we focus on living satisfying lives, based on real wealth* instead of consumption and distraction, we may find that we are happier, healthier, and no longer facing the imminent destruction of our own lives as well as that of the planet.
The biosphere which supports all life, and the only life we’ve ever discovered to exist in the known universe, is in an acute and exponential stage of collapse. This is empirically irrefutable. If humanity continues to function under the same economic, political and social ethos it does today, we will simply drive ourselves into extinction, along with most of life on the planet, and in all probability, within our current lifespan.
– Daniel Drumright
What do you think?
*clean air, clean water, healthful food, clothing, shelter, good health, companionship and meaningful occupation.