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Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:09 PM

The Earth Is Telling Us We Must Rethink Our Growth Society

William E. Rees is professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia.. Heiam Rees is one of the people responsible for developing Global Footprint Analysis.

This article invites us to taker a big step back to look at the coronavirus crisis.

The Earth Is Telling Us We Must Rethink Our Growth Society

As the pandemic builds, most people, led by government officials and policy wonks, perceive the threat solely in terms of human health and its impact on the national economy. Consistent with the prevailing vision, mainstream media call almost exclusively on physicians and epidemiologists, financiers and economists to assess the consequences of the viral outbreak.

However horrific the COVID-19 pandemic may seem, it is merely one symptom of gross human ecological dysfunction. The prospect of economic implosion is directly connected. The overarching reality is that the human enterprise is in a state of overshoot.

We are using nature’s goods and life-support services faster than ecosystems can regenerate. There are simply too many people consuming too much stuff. Even at current global average levels of consumption (about a third of the Canadian average) the human population far exceeds the long-term carrying capacity of Earth. We’d need almost five Earth-like planets to support just the present world population indefinitely at Canadian average material standards. Gaian theory tells us that life continuously creates the conditions necessary for life. Yet humanity has gone rogue, rapidly destroying those conditions.

When will the media call on systems ecologists to explain what’s really going on? If they did, we might learn the following:

* That the current pandemic is an inevitable consequence of human populations everywhere expanding into the habitats of other species with which we have had little previous contact (H. sapiens is the most invasive of “invasive species”).

* That the pandemic results from sometimes desperately impoverished people eating bushmeat, the flesh of wild species carrying potentially dangerous pathogens.

*That contagious disease is readily propagated because of densification and urbanization — think Wuhan or New York — but particularly (as we may soon see) because of the severe overcrowding of vulnerable people in the burgeoning slums and barrios of the developing world.

* That the coronavirus thrives because three billion people still lack basic hand-washing facilities and more than four billion lack adequate sanitation services.

A population ecologist might even dare explain that, even when it comes to human numbers, whatever goes up must come down.

All of which, while bluntly true, is cold comfort to those drowning in the Covid-19 tsunami.

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Reply The Earth Is Telling Us We Must Rethink Our Growth Society (Original post)
The_jackalope Apr 2020 OP
ck4829 Apr 2020 #1
cilla4progress Apr 2020 #2
Pantagruel Apr 2020 #3
Newest Reality Apr 2020 #4
The_jackalope Apr 2020 #6
onethatcares Apr 2020 #7
BamaRefugee Apr 2020 #5

Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:12 PM

1. The Earth is pretty naive then; needs to send a virus that melts guns, money, and makes billionaires

forget how to access their offshore tax shelters.

People would start listening then.

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:14 PM

2. Bingo.

Direct link to climate crisis - overpopulation.

I imagine if you look at previous plagues, there are correlation - population density, etc.

Seems like commonsense to me. Expect more of this. Whack-a-mole.

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:16 PM

3. Too many people

not enough planet.

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:23 PM

4. Barriers

Even if growing numbers of us have come to our senses and become more aware of the vital interdependence that is crucial to the maintenance of our environment and its viability to harbor all life in a healthy, vigorous symbiosis, what then?

We have so many barriers created by those of us who seem to be preoccupied with profit, control, manipulating perception, manufacturing consent, power, addictions to acquisition, oneupmanship, self promotion and aggrandizement, being "self made", subscribing to Neo-liberal doctrines, etc., etc.

Those who float to the top of our septic system and are called "leaders" in this and that have their hands on the steering wheels and levers that direct the collective of humanity in the direction that they call progress, success, prosperity, etc.

Even if one paints this phenomena with a broad brush and directs it towards a rather abstract collection called "they" or "them" we really need more collective insight and action in a way that deters those Captains of Industry, inept politicians and global despots out to control and rule as many people as they can from forcing humanity and the species of this planet into an inevitable and irreversible death spiral of Anthropocene extinction. One that will take may take many thousands or millions of years to "recover" from.

If we have no democratic say, globally, in our fate, then do we just end up being aware--but disgruntled--audiences for a non-stop disaster movie? Is that the fate of mankind and all life on this planet. And for what?

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #4)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:29 PM

6. That's the problem, isn't it?

I've been intimately aware of the looming bottleneck for human societies for the last 15 years. The degree of futility and helplessness I feel as a single individual looking at a planet-sized catastrophe that is buttressed by insurmountable barriers social and economic cannot be overstated.

The best response I've been able to muster is contracting my own footprint as much as possible, and becoming a vocal witness to the unfolding calamity.

That and $5.00 will buy me a Starbucks latte.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #4)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 02:52 PM

7. shouldn't have took more than we gave

Dave Mason, circa 1973

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Mon Apr 6, 2020, 01:27 PM

5. Earth doesn't give a shit. Does an anthill worry about how many Formicidae are crawling around it?

The Earth abides. It will go on long after our personal little ant hills have disappeared.

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