Population is a critically important variable in the quest for a sustainable and healthy world. Population dynamics of natural populations is relatively well-understood. Introducing an exotic species into a new habitat where it faces little competition and has rich resources results in a steeply rising curve usually with pronounced exponential rates of increase. Here is the curve for human population increase (I used world bank and UN data) which looks more-or-less identical to a normal natural population of an introduced species with little competition and rich resources.
Over time the resource level and/or competitive factors or disease from overly dense populations begin to tip the curve so that the slope of population increase is decreased. Here is a chart of the recent changes in human population growth and a projection to 2050.
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The idea of an ecomodern view point makes eminent good sense. Take the best of modern technology combined with modern understanding of global ecology, human societies, human needs and desires and put them all together in a winning package. The purpose of this Ecomodernist Manifesto, authored by some 26 scholars is essentially to propose an economic strategy (although the authors categorize it as a strategy to improve ecological and human well-being):
“We offer this statement in the belief that both human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet are not only possible, but also inseparable. By committing to the real processes, already underway, that have begun to decouple human well-being from environmental destruction, we believe that such a future might be achieved. As such, we embrace an optimistic view toward human capacities and the future.”
WOW! That is to say, they believe that continuing on the path we currently have embarked on will save the day if we emphasize technological innovation to provide limitless energy and intensive primary production that will not limit the population growth of humans for the foreseeable future (centuries or thousands of years).
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The Ecomodernist Manifesto is, in my opinion, a cleverly designed marketing tool to allow continued exploitation of extractive energy and mineral resources while encouraging damaging intensive agricultural practices that ignore the limits of soil recovery. There are many messages about how technology will save us all, but on climate change and global ecological challenges, they espouse the following: “Climate change and other global ecological challenges are not the most important immediate concerns for the majority of the world’s people. Nor should they be. A new coal-fired power station in Bangladesh may bring air pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions but will also save lives”
At least some of the authors of the manifesto have serious doubts that the current scientific conclusions from climate studies are accurate enough to warrant spending money on mitigation. They base this uncertainty on a variety of ideas, but primarily that the variability of observations combined with the probability predictions in climate models suggest the sensitivity of the planet is much lower than most climate scientists claim. In addition, they argue that the various scenarios of catastrophic melting or increased temperatures are either unlikely or in the distant future when new innovative technology will come to the rescue – just as it always has in the past.
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An Ecomodernist Manifesto “demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.” The eco-modernists argue that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while human societies must not harmonize with nature because in their opinion that will not avoid economic or ecological collapse. They claim that as a general rule, natural systems will not be be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being.
Instead they claim that “intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts. These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Together they allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty.” I am not certain how you can intensify forestry without being extractive unless you turn the forests into wood farms. Nor am I certain how one can extract fuels more intensely without extracting them…
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The Holocene began about 11,700 years ago, after the end of the ice age. The term is a geological term. That happened to be just about the same time that people began to shift from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to one that investigated and eventually established agriculture. In that brief 12,000 years since then people have made an enormous impact on the planet. Nobel laureate and atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen popularized the term Anthropocene in 2000 and it now has appeared in some 200 scientific articles. Geologists tend to object to the term and remark that the taxonomy is geological and there is no obvious geological evidence as to the start of a new era. Because this is a nebulous term and not yet completely established in the scientific literature, the exact beginning is unclear.
Whatever is the actual case, the term has caught on and in a new study by Will Steffen and others, 16 Jan 2015, Science, on planetary boundaries, the scope of the human impact is illustrated in a graphic that depicts the outer limits of a number of potentially limiting factors on human survival.
Increasingly the accelerated growth we are currently undergoing in a wide range of variables adds to the concept that the Anthropocene is an era of human dimensions that hare having a singularly strong impact on the resource base of the human civilization. This slideshow is from the IGBP Secretariat and depicts a series of changes since 1750.
The long-term implications of these changes in an economic and ecological environment are ominous. For more information, this site is intriguing:
So just because you run a business, does this mean you are a “CAPITALIST?” If I operate a consulting business out of my basement, am I a capitalist? What about a local bakeshop or an independent family farm, or a medical doctor or a dentist? Now if I asked you if the owner of the Walmart chain is a capitalist, you would be likely to say yes — and you would be correct. But what about the small bookshop with funny little owner-guy who knows every book in the shop?
Capitalism (the word dates from the mid-19th century) is an economic system where investment and ownership controls production and distribution to make possible exchange of wealth among private individuals or corporations. A different system by comparison might be a co-op or state-owned wealth. The underlying strategic goal of control of production and distribution is to dominate the market and capture all the potential wealth to a single corporation or conglomerate. That competitive strategy is devoid of any value structure except as it applies all tactics to increasing profit by gaining greater control of production and distribution. Huge corporations develop at the expense of smaller independent corporations and businesses. Employees within this logic are packages of energy and skill. Thus, one tactic is to replace current employees by machines or less expensive employees if that is possible because it leads to higher profits.
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