Thursday, May 23, 2013

Do the Math

Population + technology + energy use + consumerism + resource depletion + global warming + environmental degradation + ocean acidification + loss of biodiversity = totally fucked.

These aren’t separate problems; they’re all part of the same problem caused by too many people competing for too few resources using too much energy-dependent technology in a constrained environment.

Over the last few decades, global population more than doubled, while global energy use went up even more. For the first time in history, humanity consumed more renewable resources (on an annual basis) than planet Earth can restore. For the first time in history, we maxed out the planetary credit card.

There’s no denying that the global economy is hamstrung by a nexus of perfect storms―overpopulation, overconsumption, overproduction, environmental destruction, ecological mayhem, pollution, resource depletion, climate changes attributed to global warming, and probably a few others. For the first time in history, we simultaneously peaked on everything that’s essential to long-term human survival. The implications, in terms of population numbers, are obvious.

A vibrant, growing economy results in major impacts to environment and ecosystem alike. Human demand (consumption) drives production (exploitation of natural resources, energy use) and all other forms of economic activity that, in aggregate, take a horrendous toll on the environment. The rational approach to averting climate catastrophe (and a few others, too) is to take our collective foot off the economic throttle and let the economy idle for a good long while.

We can fix the economy by making radical changes to it now and introducing fundamental changes as we go along to ensure we get it right, but if we don’t take immediate radical steps to fix the environment, then it’s game over for most species―maybe all species, including ours. If ever there was a time for radicalism, this is it.

Our best chances of surviving what’s coming down the road begin with stopping―not reducing―CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere, accompanied by shutting off the flow of toxic chemicals entering the environment. The fastest way to accomplish this is to abandon our industrial economy’s endless cycles of production and consumption in favor of something that’s less destructive of the environment and more supportive of life.