Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Reader's Response

In response to yesterday's blog post, a reader had some well-considered commentary and observations that I am offering as today's post. I hope you enjoy them. Here is what BM wrote:
Many years ago in the late 1980s, I was asked to comment on the Brundtland Commission Report insofar as it related to our company.

That report talked about sustainable development. Within a couple of months, that sobriquet had already been changed to sustainable "economic" development by the various talking heads of the time. I criticized this co-opting of the terms compared to what Brundtland had actually said in my essay. Economics as such were not part of the report, sustainable development was, but none of the nitwits could see the difference.

BTW, there is a decent enough article on Wikipedia about the commission, the main point(s) being this"

""...the "environment" is where we live; and "development" is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable."

The Brundtland Commission insists upon the environment being something beyond physicality, going beyond that traditional school of thought to include social and political atmospheres and circumstances. It also insists that development is not just about how poor countries can ameliorate their situation, but what the entire world, including developed countries, can do to ameliorate our common situation."

This degree of cerebral thought went right past the heads of nearly everyone, including all I read in commentary about the report at the time. No, it was instead taken as a signal to rape and pillage the earth, because the new buzzwords were "sustainable economic development", which is a completely different thing to mere "sustainable development."

By 1993 I had become convinced that there was no chance that anyone would voluntarily cut back, sitting as I did one day on a plane to Ottawa next to David Suzuki sucking back his champagne and orange juice, wasting jet fuel.

The way I saw it then was that we had only the one chance to really cut back and examine what we were really up to on this earth, and we had better get down to it right away.

I also sickeningly realized that there wasn't the slightest hope in hell that anything would actually get done. Man doesn't exist like that. The selfish gene means that as biological entities we go on reproducing without limit come what may. Furthermore, any state control of child numbers to one per couple a la China still meant population increase, as mathematics will easily show if a generation is assumed to be 20 or 25 years. And in our primitive basic selves, government control of something as basic as the reproductive urge will never work.

So we are basically effed as a species. I don't think I've ever become despondent other than in an intellectual way about this. Back in the 1970s, I had worked out that the ideal world population was about 200 million humans. Then everyone could enjoy a reasonably comfortable physical and cerebral existence basically for ever. But the shrill environmentalists of the time turned me off. Just as today, everything has to be done IMMEDIATELY, frightening the general population, who just want to get by with a job, shelter and food.

It's too late now, but the same tactics are still being used. Panic, panic, you're either with us or agin us and thus an almighty fool. I really don't know if there is an answer, but am pretty convinced that the general population is highly unlikely to be swayed by logic of the LeaP variety, no matter what we may all would like to think.

I therefore declare myself as a fatalist rather than a defeatist.

Here is what I wrote in response to BM's comments:
Thank you for your informed and insightful comments, BM. I can't disagree with your assertions, and, like you, the selfishness that seems to permeate our natures will surely be our undoing. Here are two small examples that I observe every day attesting to selfishness and egoism that goes beyond biological imperatives:

So many people are still driving huge vehicles that they don't need, be they trucks o SUVs. Indeed, every time the cost of gas drops, their sales increase.

People continue to spew greenhouse gas emissions through idling of their vehicles, whether they are waiting for a spouse in winter and keeping warm in their vehicle or in summer, when they keep the engine going for air conditioning.

If people cannot even make wise choices in these two very small matters, the big ones are obviously well beyond their capacity.

You are absolutely right: humanity is screwed.


  1. This guy, BM, knows his stuff. He always offers cogent, well-reasoned comments based on what must have been some very interesting career experience.

    In this comment he rings all the bells. He gets the link between population, consumption and the biosphere, the environment in which we and all activity must be contained.

    His conclusion that he declares himself a fatalist, not a defeatist, suggests he should sign on with the rest of us at Dark Mountain.

    1. His is a depressing but realistic outlook, Mound. I wish it were otherwise.

  2. .. damn there's some brilliant pirate journalism sailing upwind .. as the mossy bottomed scows of the mainstream take shelter.. or better said, are hard aground in port, their anchors silted in..

    Fantastic examinations & observations.. ! Keep them coming ! I once met a brilliant artist at a small clever conference sponsored by The MacLuhan Program at U of T .. and his dissertation was .. 'we need a star.. a star to steer us by..'

    Well, we also need new charts.. to navigate & understand the new currents & patterns.. and such knowledge can only come from those who explore and question the old outdated maps.. Well done as usual Lorne.. you keep poking and prodding.. and reflecting your observations.. and those of your fellow navigators !

    1. Thanks, Salamander. Your comments, as always, are most welcome.