Whenever something is wrong, something is too big: The problem of unmanageable proportions.

Delhi Traffic Jam

Recommended Exercise: Meditate on the following texts and then express the ideas that come to mind. Time limit: 3 hours.

“The answer to all questions underlying our problems today is the size factor—not unemployment, not warfare, not juvenile delinquency, not business fluctuations, not Black Mondays, Black Fridays, or Black Tuesdays. What matters is the enormous scale of these maladies. It’s huge! The world today is faced with the consequences of nuclear power, but the problems can be solved only by tackling the scale of it and the huge nations that need it, not by demonstrating against it. These huge nations cannot exist, poor creatures, without nuclear power, which is so efficient—so efficient that only 5% of the population is needed to contribute to the economic upkeep; all the rest must be tied to the bureaucracy or the military or the educational institutions that teach people to spend their time with no purpose. The fundamental effect is a vast increase in our human numbers; if there is to be a way out, these numbers must be reduced, and the way to reduce them is by reducing the size of nations, which at a smaller scale no longer depend on nuclear power but instead on muscle power, small electric power, wind power, and so forth.” — Leopold Kohr

The following texts are from Paul Kingsnorth’s essay on Leopold Kohr.

“Kohr’s claim was that society’s problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organization, but by their size. Socialism, anarchism, capitalism, democracy, monarchy – all could work well on what he called “the human scale”: a scale at which people could play a part in the systems that governed their lives. But once scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression – as any number of revolutions have shown – because “the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself”.”

. . .

“Bigness, predicted Kohr, could only lead to more bigness, for “whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions”. Beyond those limits it was forced to accumulate more power in order to manage the power it already had. Growth would become cancerous and unstoppable, until there was only one possible endpoint: collapse.”

. . .

The last texts are from James Lovelock’s “The Revenge of Gaia.’

The root of our problems with the environment comes from a lack of constraint on the growth of population. There is no single right number of people that we can have as a goal: the number varies with our way of life on the planet and the state of its health. It has varied naturally from a few million when we were hunters and gatherers to a fraction of a billion as simple farmers’ but now it has grown to over six billion, which is wholly unsustainable in the present state of Gaia, even if we had the will and the ability to cut back. (ed. This was written in 2006, the population in 2019 is about 7.4 billion; and the forecast for 2050 is about 9.5 billion)

. . .

“Personally I think we would be wise to aim at a stabilized population of about half to one billion, and then we would be free to live in many different ways without harming Gaia.”

Again: Meditate on the texts and then express the ideas that come to mind. Time limit: 3 hours.

_________________

Leopold Kohr (1909-1994) was an openhearted, urbane, convivial man who loved intellectual companionship and discussion. He was an economist, jurist, political scientist, and self-described philosophical anarchist. Believing in the effectiveness of returning to the local level to solve the problems affecting humankind, he saw small self-governing communities as best able to solve their problems with their own resources. Read more . . .

Paul Kingsnorth – I am 75% English, 25% Greek Cypriot, 100% European and 0% European Union. I share 96% of my genetic material with chimpanzees and 60% with bananas. I am descended from the Viking Earls of the Orkney Isles. I live with my English-Punjabi wife and our two children in the west of Ireland, where 85% of the men are descended from eastern Mediterranean farmers. I’m a writer. I mainly write novels, poetry and essays. Read more . . .

James Lovelock – James Ephraim Lovelock, CH CBE FRS (born 26 July 1919) is an independent scientist, environmentalist, and futurist who lives in Dorset, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system. Read more . . .

Outbreaks

On my ABOUT page I discuss what I refer to as ‘the intersect of extinction”: When climate change, population growth, and human frailty come together, they produce a churning cauldron of destabilizing ingredients, locked in a deadly cycle of destructive feedback loops.

The following TED Talk by Charles C. Mann gets at some of what I mean by this when he talks about what biologists call ‘outbreaks.’

Mann says that an outbreak is “when a population or species exceeds the bounds of natural selection. Natural selection ordinarily keeps populations and species within roughly defined limits. Pests, parasites, lack of resources prevent them from expanding too much. But every now and then, a species escapes its bounds. . . . Populations explode, a hundredfold, a thousandfold, a millionfold.

He continues: “Put a couple of protozoa into a petri dish full of nutrient goo. In their natural habitat, soil or water, their environment constrains them. In the petri dish, they have an ocean of breakfast and no natural enemies. They eat and reproduce, eat and reproduce, until bang, they hit the edge of the petri dish, at which point they either drown in their own waste, starve from lack of resources, or both. The outbreak ends, always, badly.

He says that “from the viewpoint of biology, you and I are not fundamentally different than the protozoa in the petri dish. We’re not special. All the things that we, in our vanity, think make us different — art, science, technology, and so forth, they don’t matter. We’re an outbreak species, we’re going to hit the edge of the petri dish, simple as that.”

But, he asks, is this really true? “Are we in fact doomed to hit the edge of the petri dish?”

He then goes on to discuss a number of things we can do, one of which is this: “[If] there’s a difference between us and the protozoa, a difference that matters, it’s not just our art and science and technology and so forth — it’s that we can yell and scream, we can go out into the streets, and, over time, change the way society works, but we’re not doing it.

Listen to the entire talk. It has already received over 2 million views.

Scientists’ Warning at Foresight Group, EU Commission

This presentation by Stuart Scott and Alison Green from November 5, 2018 was delivered to the ‘Foresight Group’ of the EU Commission in Brussels, Belgium. The assessment of our global prospects is extremely severe.  The conclusions may be upsetting and perhaps life-changing for many.  But the conclusions should not be taken in lightly.

How to eat the diet that will save the world

Melon, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and chard, harvested from our organic garden.
Melon, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and chard, harvested from our organic garden.

Though our diet is completely planted-based, a more modest, and for many people more manageable, global recommendation came out yesterday as reported in the Guardian:

“By 2050, there will be about 10 billion of us, and how to feed us all, healthily and from sustainable food sources, is something that is already being looked at. The Norway-based think-tank Eat and the British journal the Lancet have teamed up to commission an in-depth, worldwide study, which launches at 35 different locations around the world today, into what it would take to solve this problem – and the ambition is huge.

“The commissioners lay out important caveats. Their solution is contingent on global efforts to stabilize population growth, the achievement of the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement on climate change and stemming worldwide changes in land use, among other things. But they are clear that it depends on far more than just these basic requirements. The initial report presents a flexible daily diet for all food groups based on the best health science, which also limits the impact of food production on the planet.” Read more…