Monday, April 21, 2014

Planning A Sustainable Future For Mankind

Sustainability means planning our future in a way that we do not set ourselves up to crash and burn at some future date. Long-term planning has not been something politicians excel at or are even good at. Our system is geared at getting politicians re-elected and fulfilling the most pressing needs of today.  Things like profit, greed, and quenching
our unrelinquishing desire for growth is placed in front of longer term issues and needs. Mapping out a logical and sustainable long-term plan requires delving into some rather hefty philosophical questions like what brings real happiness. We would have to think about what kind of society and world future generations might want to live in. We would have to recognize the role of the human animal in the overall scheme of things.

As the population has soared during the last two hundred years man has spread out and constructed infrastructure across the planet to support this growth using more natural resources than at any time in history. Already more is needed and the repairs required to maintain what we have built will be staggering. It appears we lack the courage to even discuss these issues in any real way. Do not expect to be guided by politicians, the super wealthy or most business leaders. Few people are willing to come out and say the recently adopted modern model of life based on lifestyles developed in America and western society are unsustainable. The few that mutter these words are often scorned. This could all be considered part of a giant conspiracy of silence but is more likely a head in the sand act of denial, but denial that will lead to our demise.

Jeremy Grantham’s investment firm GMO manages about $110 billion in assets. He also backs the Grantham Institute of Climate Change at London’s Imperial College. He says population growth is a huge “threat to the long-term viability of our species when we reach a population level of 10 billion” because it is “impossible to feed the 10 billion people.” Billionaire Bill Gates says we should cap global population at 8.3 billion at the same time his vaccine and other programs are extending life expectancy. Columbia University’s Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is unsustainable. To stop adding more people our population is tough enough. But how do eliminate two billion from today’s seven billion total? Voluntary?

We should remember that for most of his 60,000 years on earth man has been a minor consumer of the earth’s stores of energy. With the discovery of fire, man began to increase his demands and draw on the short-term energy stores that had been accumulated over scores of years or even centuries by woody plants.  Only in the last hundred years with the invention of the internal combustion engine and a huge increase in population has man begun to tap the planet's long-term energy supplies of oil and natural gas at an alarming rate. In merely a blink of an eye, we have shaped a world where our lifestyles revolve around and are dependent on oil and the consumption of energy from fossil fuels.

As the world continues to develop the importance of design and quality are factors that cannot be stressed enough. An issue we are failing to address is that as the world's population soars we cannot afford the wasteful luxury of constructing buildings that grow obsolete or must be replaced every few decades, buildings should last for centuries. How we use our new skills and the choices we make will determine if mankind blankets the world with Las Vegas style resorts on every corner, fills the skies with glass towers, or constructs homes and shelters suitable for our fellow man.

It concerns me that in developing countries such as China and India that have huge populations of have-nots we are seeing developers follow the same flawed pattern of growth that was pioneered in America. The creation of huge wealth in China has manifested itself in conspicuous consumption as people rush to show they are successful. Poor planning has not promoted a lifestyle of efficiency and social interaction but has encouraged the private automobile with its massive support system of highways and the construction of more high-rise towers. The ability of the planet to sustain our recent lifestyle that is too new to have stood the test of time is very questionable.

“One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse,” warns Jared Diamond, environmental anthropologist and author of the classic “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” Many “civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Remember this is totally entwined with the economy and everyday life. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth, and power.” Can it be stopped? Before it’s too late? Don’t bet on it. Watching how Washington solves and deals with real problems is not encouraging.


 Footnote; The above article is not an endorsement of the carbon tax as much as it is a call for better planning and less waste. This post dovetails with many of my recent writings, for more I might suggest reading the articles below. Other related articles may be found in my blog archive, thanks for reading, your comments are encouraged.
           http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2016/12/10-worst-problems-facing-world-going.html
           http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2013/06/presidential-climate-change-initiative.html

2 comments:

  1. Great Post. Thanks for sharing.

    Aclaworks.Com focuses on contextual sustainability for the Caribbean, adopting the principles of people, profit and planet.

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  2. Capitalism will eventually collapse under the weight of its own corruption and greed but not for a few centuries yet, and there is a school of thought that suggests in a few hundred years the optimum sustainable population of this planet will be less than 500 million, so the future before the modern world is lost to the powers that be, War, Famine, Disease, Forced Birth Control and every other dirty trick will be intentionally implemented, mans future is anything but bright

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