Thursday, November 13, 2008


Whether one’s views are extreme or not is a function of time and place. In 1859 John Brown was perceived as a monomaniacal radical for raiding Harper’s Ferry and believing that if the slaves were not freed America would be bathed in blood. In 1865 three percent of his nation’s population were dead from a civil war that freed the slaves and John Brown was a martyred folk hero.
In January of 2007 when I started my blog1 I was told that I was an extremist for repeating Paul Ehrlich’s estimate that the earth could support only 2 billion people.
Then 6 months later I read that James Lovelock said that it could only support 750 million.
Then I read an article by microbiologist Peter Salonius called “The 10,000 Year Misunderstanding”2 and it really revolutionized my thinking. It said that the problem wasn’t the overconsumption of industrial civilization. It was agrarian civilization. Earth could only sustainably support 150-300 million people. The soils need a rest.
Here I was starting out in January of 2007 with the proposition that Canada should freeze its current population at 32 million and being called an extremist with a fortress mentality.

Think Salonius was off-beat? Hear the latest? Chris Clugston’s SOA analysis3 is a more comprehensive and contemporary yardstick of carrying capacity than the EFA used by the Global Footprint Network of Rees and Wackernagel.
Extrapolating from the US data, if his SOA analysis was applied to Canada, are you ready, we could support just 1,122,000 people, or the combined populations of Ottawa and Cornwall, Ontario. If we carried on living as we do. If we stayed at 33 million, we would have to survive at 5% of our present per capita GDP. A Cambodian budget in a cold climate? Good luck..

The problem is I think, that sometimes the truth is extreme. Some pretend that it is not my message but the manner in which I tell it. They want me to be a firefighter who politely knocks on a burning building, waits to be invited in, and then in a quiet mellow voice, tactfully and diplomatically whispers for everyone to get out. Including that guy in the Sierra Club with displacement anxiety who polishes the wood furniture rather than acknowledge that the building is going to collapse around him.(I screwed in a fluorescent bulb didn’t I?)

In granola country, in those far-out pockets of poltical correctness that dot BC (Cortes, Quadra, Gabriola, the Slocan Valley, Nelson) I am indeed an “extremist” and beyond the pale. But I would certainly fit within the New Zealand Green Party who favour population stabilization including immigration caps and are now fighting for a one child policy and taking heat for it. Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, recently called for a Population Policy for Australia on the Senate floor. (Yet) in the Canadian context (I remain) an extremist ....
Is an extremist someone with extreme views or someone who merely sees an extreme situation and boldly announces it ?
Tim Murray
November 10/08
1. My blog.
2. “The 10,000 Year Misunderstanding: A Short History of Overshoot” by Peter Salonius
3. SOA analysis (Societal Overextension Analysis)

1 comment:

Pete Murphy said...

Tim, can you believe that, here in America, it's difficult to convince anyone that a population of 300 million isn't sustainable? It's enough to make me want to emigrate to Canada. That's not a knock on Canada. I love Canada. But I guess I'd be just one more immigrant that you don't want, and I can't blame you for that.

Pete Murphy
Author, "Five Short Blasts"