Monday, March 26, 2007


Forgive me for using a tired old metaphor, but it's the only one that comes to mind. We are all on board the HMS Ecological Titanic. In my former life, when I was a socialist, before I saw the iceberg, I was concerned about the plight of the people in steerage, especially since a lot of them were of my dad's stock, poor Irish immigrants. I dreamed of re-organizing the ship so as to eliminate 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and of replacing the captain. But now I see the iceberg looming dead ahead, and I'm screaming to get somebody's attention. The officers aren't interested in hearing from me--in fact, they want to silence me for causing undue alarm. My comrades in third class aren't too concerned either, there may be an iceberg out there, but it’s more important that they receive more equitable service and accommodation on the ship. There are, however, four or five men who share my worry, and as luck would have it, one votes Conservative, one Liberal and two are apolitical. But we need to collaborate to form a delegation to petition the captain and raise the alarm. Left/right dichotomies don't matter so much when your ship is about to sink. Nor do issues of social justice. The iceberg in our case is over-population. The ship is planet earth. The passengers are 6.5 billion human beings and the millions of plant and animal species that we threaten to take down with us.
The relationship between man and nature must take priority over the relationship between men. Human activity is just a subset of the biosphere. Without healthy biodiversity or a livable atmosphere, both compromised by runaway population growth, were are dead. And there is obviously no social democracy on a dead planet. Where once my slogan had been “People before Profits”, now it must be “Nature before People”.
Our first order of business is not only to reduce our footprint, but our numbers. As James Lovelock said, if we had the population we had in the eighteenth century, it wouldn’t matter what our energy source was. The same point was made more colourfully by Manitoban Buster Welch when he said that “It’s OK to shit in a river or drive an SUV if you’re the only one doing it. But if a million people do it, you have a problem. That’s over-population.”
We must keep our focus and our eye on the ball.

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