Saturday, March 03, 2012

the earth is full...,

PaulGilding | The first part of the talk made my stomach cramp. It’s the stuff I’m telling people: impending collapse, resource wars, as the lights go out, literally.

There one slight error at the start of the talk: The “eminent scientists of the Global Footprint Network” did NOT calculate that we would “need 1.5 earths to sustain this economy”.

The GFN calculate that we use living, renewable resources to the equivalent of 1.5 earths. Then they calculated that our westernized countries use between 5 and 9 times more renewables than nature can regenerate. The US-Americans would have to reduce consumption of renewables ninefold! Citing the overall planetary mean value of 1.5 is utterly misleading.

Moreover, non-renewables such as minerals, fossil fuels, fossil water, pollution, soil erosion, etc. are not included in the GFN account.

The human society’s overshoot of the earth’s carrying capacity is far bigger than 1.5 times. It may be as big as 400 times. Humanity might only be sustainable with a world population of 500 million, at a standard of living (environmental resource use) similar to the times before the steam engine, i.e. before 1712, before modernity began.

The last part of the talk is very questionable.

Arguably we cannot save the world by technology. We do not have sufficient resources, neither the technology, nor sufficient time for an orderly transition.

The earth cannot provide for nine billion people, living well within the limits of the earths’ carrying capacity, subconsciously assuming we continue enjoying modernity’s lifestyles.

When we stop growing the economy, i.e. when we stop building ever more gadgets and roads and buildings, we will face massive bancruptcies and huge unemployment.

How can we employ billions in the primary sector (agriculture) again?
How can we achieve relocalisation, demechanisation, slowing down and the restructturing that is mandatory because of the end of the oil age?

Paul Gilding end his talk with: “We’ve built a powerful foundation of science, knowledge and technology — more than enough to build a society where nine billion people can lead decent, meaningful and satisfying lives. The Earth can support that if we choose the right path.”

That sounds very positive. But what is “meaningful, satisfying, decent”? At what level of resource use, on an earth that has been depleted of most renewable and non-renewable stuff?

It might be on a level that is less than the stone age.

Such talks follow the old selling principle of religions: first scare people, then promise salvation.

Well, in this way change is not going to happen. But it sells books.