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Tue Nov 26, 2019, 09:55 AM

The reason the world's situation keeps getting worse is simple

Over the last 4000 years or so, we (the global, universal, techno-civilized 'we') have come to see the world as a socioeconomic system rather than a biophysical system. That means we see the world as a habitat for humanity rather that as a home for all life.

Individually we seem to evaluate proposed changes mainly in social and economic terms. The biophysical aspects of the changes are given relatively short shrift. For example, effective carbon taxes are seen not as a biophysical benefit to the planet, but as an economic burden on humans.

This way of thinking appears to be a conditioned reflex across most cultures on the planet. Each of us has been trained to think this way since childhood, and this worldview is constantly reinforced by our cultures. Relatively few individuals have been able to break the bonds of this conditioning and see the world in biophysical terms. They tend to be viewed by society at large as radical extremists, or even as anti-human misanthropes.

In order to reverse our growing destruction of the biosphere we would have to reverse the growth of both our aggregate consumption and our population, and accept rapidly becoming fewer and poorer. As far as I can tell, we won't do either.

Developing a biophysical interpretation of the situation goes hand in hand with accepting that the die is cast. The looming question is not how to avoid a terminal outcome, but how we will each choose to act in the face of the inevitable death of our way of living.

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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply The reason the world's situation keeps getting worse is simple (Original post)
The_jackalope Nov 2019 OP
tblue37 Nov 2019 #1
cilla4progress Nov 2019 #2
Boomer Nov 2019 #3
friendly_iconoclast Nov 2019 #4
Boomer Nov 2019 #12
friendly_iconoclast Nov 2019 #13
AncientGeezer Nov 2019 #5
The_jackalope Nov 2019 #6
AncientGeezer Nov 2019 #7
The_jackalope Nov 2019 #8
AncientGeezer Nov 2019 #9
The_jackalope Nov 2019 #10
AncientGeezer Nov 2019 #11
Finishline42 Nov 2019 #14
NickB79 Nov 2019 #15
Boomer Nov 2019 #16
Calculating Dec 2019 #17

Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 10:02 AM

1. K&R for visibility. nt

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 10:19 AM

2. Bookmarking

...

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 11:11 AM

3. Greedy apes

Evolution has plastered a thin veneer of abstract thinking over deep-seated emotional drives, so it's futile to blame humans for just being human. If only we'd had a touch more bonobo in us, but alas, we don't.

Individual people -- who are by nature or circumstance somewhat dispassionate and curious -- may be willing to grapple with uncomfortable truths and larger perspectives, but most people avoid them. Most people are concerned with their place in the local community, not with the position of humanity within an ecosystem. Their loyalty is to their family (and by extension to their species) rather than to all life forms. It's so much more convenient to be homo-centric.

I find it exasperating, but I try to moderate my response with understanding. I'm the outlier, I've always been The Other within my community (atheist, gay, mixed-breed, you name it, it set me apart) and I'm used to playing the part of an observer rather than integrated participant. I view humans with a somewhat jaundiced eye. But most people are either in the frame or desperately want to be, and their perspective is going to be very different from mine.

We're a flash in the pan, a fantastical, complex species that burned fast and bright. I try to view our passing with the same dispassion that has kept me sane for the past 60 years.

This is the DU member formerly known as Boomer.

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Response to Boomer (Reply #3)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 03:41 PM

4. For good or bad, we're social animals, no matter how apart we feel

Frankly, we all need to find a community where we're an integrated participant, because history shows
that sooner or later when things inevitably fall apart, muderous xenophobia and hatred of outgroups
becomes the order of the day:

https://academic.oup.com/gh/article-abstract/13/2/182/564890?redirectedFrom=PDF

Hashude: The Imprisonment of ĎAsocialí Families in the Third Reich


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_triangle_(badge)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulak

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_transfer_in_the_Soviet_Union



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Response to friendly_iconoclast (Reply #4)

Wed Nov 27, 2019, 07:30 AM

12. I have no illusions

When society collapses, I would be one of the first casualties. I'm very grateful for the growing acceptance of gay people in our society, but I don't really expect it to last. It's a burst of freedom just before the dark returns. I'm also very aware that I don't have a support system that will help me weather truly bad times. But I've led a comfortable life, and I can't say I have too many regrets. The chances are pretty good that I won't live long enough to worry about societal collapse -- that's still a few years/decades away.

I share jackalope's vision of where we're headed. It seems blazingly obvious. The human mindset -- especially the Western one -- is immersed in a fantasy of unlimited growth, despite the obvious fact that we live in a finite system. We show no sign of being able to break that paradigm even as our ecosystems begin to collapse. Equilibrium WILL be restored, one way or another, by the system itself, and it's not going to be a comfortable journey.
This is the DU member formerly known as Boomer.

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Response to Boomer (Reply #12)

Wed Nov 27, 2019, 06:46 PM

13. "Equilibrium WILL be restored...and it's not going to be a comfortable journey." Amen...

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Response to The_jackalope (Original post)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 06:27 PM

5. We aren't going to become "fewer and poorer"....that's not going to happen.

 

We will get hit by a planet killer asteroid or the Sun goes super nova before your cataclysmic prophecy materializes.

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Response to AncientGeezer (Reply #5)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 06:57 PM

6. Of course we will fight like hell to keep that from happening

Which, ironically, will make that outcome all the more certain.

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Response to The_jackalope (Reply #6)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 07:02 PM

7. That's you view...I hold another which I suspect is more accurate.

 

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Response to AncientGeezer (Reply #7)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 07:08 PM

8. My actual view is actually far more cataclysmic than that.

I think the maximum number of human beings the planet can sustain in perpetuity is 7 to 10 million hunter-foragers. Over time, unsustainable populations and activity levels decline toward sustainability. Here's the essay I wrote half a dozen years ago that lays out my thinking: http://www.sustainable.soltechdesigns.com/over-carry.html

We can agree to disagree, because in the short term we have to deal with the way things are now. Climate change and Donald Trump are far more important than theories of sustainability.

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Response to The_jackalope (Reply #8)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 07:24 PM

9. We have 300 million in the US...a billion+ in China...

 

We have 8 million in NYC.....you think the planet...which had had 100's of millions of humans WAY before the industrial revolution...can only support 7-10 million nut and grape eaters now(?)...not only do we disagree... I think your premise is delusional....

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Response to AncientGeezer (Reply #9)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 08:05 PM

10. No, I think the planet can only support 7-10 million in perpetuity

Right now it's supporting 1000 times that many, but at enormous cost to the biosphere. That implies that the current situation can't be sustained.

The question for me is, how long can any particular population/consumption level be sustained? It seems obvious that on a finite planet with an interdependent biosphere there are limits.

Other reputable ecologists think that a population of one to three billion might be sustainable (for at least some definition of sustainability). I don't share their views, because my benchmark for the period of sustainability is essentially forever, or at least as long as geophysical conditions permit survival. Certainly a population of 100 million would survive for a very long time, but of course that's not enough people to maintain a techno-industrial culture.

My view is that the more of us there are, and the more we consume, the shorter our period of survival will be.

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Response to The_jackalope (Reply #10)

Tue Nov 26, 2019, 08:09 PM

11. I think you are wrong....by a factor of a billion or more...ride that horse though

 

as comical as it is.

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Response to AncientGeezer (Reply #9)

Wed Nov 27, 2019, 08:48 PM

14. Just for a baseline

in 1750, the dawn of the industrial age, there were 750 million on our planet. So I think it's pretty clear that the planet can support more than 7 to 10 million.

The problem was in those days we weren't synthesizing compounds that are so poisonous to our existence. The trash had a chance to decomposed before it overwhelmed communities. Not so these days.

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Response to Finishline42 (Reply #14)

Wed Nov 27, 2019, 09:14 PM

15. By 1750, humanity had already done substantial ecological damage

Most of Western Europe's old-growth forests were gone. Same in China. The Romans had already ruining vast acreages through poorly done irrigation in North Africa. Large non-domesticated animals were largely gone from Europe and North Africa (lions, hippos, giraffes, aurochs, beats, wolves, etc) due to hunting and farming. Settlers in North America were already starting to lay saws to vast swaths of old-growth pine and oak.

Given that, I'd have to say that 750 million humans was already unsustainable if a healthy biosphere is part of the criteria for defining sustainability.

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Response to Finishline42 (Reply #14)

Thu Nov 28, 2019, 08:42 AM

16. Support for how long?

The critical issue isn't how many people can be supported at one single moment in time. At this moment in time, the planet is supporting over 7.5 billion people. That "achievement" doesn't mean we can sustain that level, just that we can reach it. We've reached it by living beyond our means, consuming significantly more resources than can be restored at these population levels.

So what is the number of humans that could live on the planet without borrowing time by relying on non-renewable resources?

Historically, we have a track record of over-consuming, so I find Jackalope's recommendation of 7-10 million to be on the generous side. World population during the Paleolithic is estimated to be 200,000-300,000 people, so I'd cap it at 1/2 million. Even at that point there's evidence humans were wiping out certain large animal species.
This is the DU member formerly known as Boomer.

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Response to Boomer (Reply #16)

Tue Dec 3, 2019, 01:02 PM

17. We need to be realistic here

If the only way we can save the world is by giving up technology, cutting our population down to sub 50 million, and going back to being Hunter gatherers, then we might as well sit back and watch the end come because there's absolutely no chance of that happening. We need realistic solutions that don't require us to go back to living like cavemen.

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