Sunday, February 7, 2010


The odds are that we are facing an economic and population crash of epic proportions. With the growth lobby firmly in control of the media and the environmental movement on the corporate take, there appears to be no impediment to our headlong rush toward toward the fatal iceberg. Those resources vital to industrial civilization will soon run out, or more be too expensive to recover. Renewable energy to meet more than a fraction of our current appetites is a pipedream. So the question then is, why bother? Why spend my precious last years in a hopeless battle against the inevitable or highly probable?

In the past three years, I have had the privilege of talking to quite a number of prominent people in the sustainability movement. Almost everyone, to a man, including Bill Rees, believes, in the words of Neil Dawe, the founder of the Qualicum Institute, that "We have bought the farm". If we are not finished as a species, our civilization is certainly doomed, and much death and misery will follow in its wake. Take Suzuki aside privately, or Rees or Clugston or Heinberg or almost anyone "in the know", and they will repeat the same sentiment. So why do they continue the fight? Why do they keep butting their head against the wall? My neighbour said it best: "We would be remiss in our moral duty if we did not try."

Why do I bother? What would you have me do, take up golf? If it turns your crank, why not vent? I think it is more therapeutic than sulking in silence. The odds of turning our Titanic around are Slim and None, and Slim just left town. But you don't throw away your lottery ticket despite the pathetically poor odds of winning. Most of us were not born "defeatist". We set up a website and weighed into the battle because lacked experience and knowledge. But as time went on, the scale of the impending disaster proved, upon investigation and interaction with others of like mind, far greater than we imagined. Like most, I accepted Paul Ehrlich's commonly held belief that our carrying capacity was 2 billion people globally. Then along came Lovelock and his 750 million. Then came Peter Salonius and famous essay, A 10,000 Year Misunderstanding, and suddenly we were thinking in terms of 300 million. Now Jack Alpert is making a case for 100 million or less. Brishen Hoff, in the meantime, made a logical argument for two and one half human survivors living as hunter gatherers. His thought was that we lived for 99% of our existence as 5 million hunter-gatherers but since we have degraded half of our environment, so only half that number would likely survive indefinitely. All these figures are speculatived of course. But have you noticed---the more we read, the more we probe, the more we debate, the figure keeps dropping. Pessimism is not the product of a bad mood---it is the consequence of objective research and an honest relationship with the evidence.

I know this. Delusional optimism and denial will only raise the casualty list. That is why my greatest contempt is not reserved for the wealthy and the powerful, but to green wing of the Self-Help Movement, the Culture of Positive "Thinking ", who want to dispense filtered information to their members like a Happy Pill, so that they may feel good about themselves. Buy a Hybrid car and go green and you can forget that rapid industrialization in China and India will wipe out your boy scout green living habits one hundred times over. Ignore growth and just keep doing your civic duty by cutting back on your personal consumption and waste. And keep on sending in those donations. To me, environmentalism is religion. Denialism. It is faith-based and not science-based. And faith is hope without evidence.People want escape. They want intellectual comfort food. Even the grimmest scenario must have a Hollywood ending---as Gore's documentary did. Keeping up morale is more important than facing up to the truth. Imagine your doctor fudging your blood tests to put a positive spin on your medical results. That is the environmental establishment in a nutshell.

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