Tasmanian Times

Chris Sharples

The Final Acceleration – Just Waiting for the Great Disruption?

The world seems dominated by two loud and bizarrely inconsistent narratives.

One narrative constantly assures us that things have never been so good as they are now, and are just getting better all the time. Computers and communication technologies have never been so powerful. A vast amount of information is at our fingertips via the World Wide web. Air travel to any corner of the planet is easy and quick. Tools, appliances and technologies that expand our reach and capacities are more accessible and of higher quality than they have ever been before. At least in first world countries, plentiful high quality food, much of it sourced from around the world and flown fresh to anywhere within days, allows us to enjoy any food we like, regardless of the local season. It seems as if the great acceleration of technological innovations and industrial and agricultural outputs that emerged from the reconstruction of western civilisation following the disaster of the Second World War has achieved an unstoppable momentum.

As a result of all these advances, many believe we are at the brink of an unprecedented golden age of abundance. Professor of Demography Peter McDonald was recently quoted (in ‘The Sunday Tasmanian’ newspaper, 2nd June 2013, p. 5) as saying the next “Alpha” generation (those born since 2010) will have the most “lavish” lifestyles and the best standards of living ever. In a similar vein, ‘The Economist’’ magazine (1st June 2013, p. 23-26) noted that economic growth over the last 20 years has halved the number of people living in poverty (albeit mainly in China), and optimistically asserted that a continuation of this trend could – for the first time in history – virtually eradicate poverty world-wide by 2030. Apparently this will happen through an acceleration of economic growth which will permit increased consumption by ever-increasing numbers of people.

This cornucopian narrative is largely driven by simplistically extrapolating past trends into the future. However there is another narrative, and this one is driven by a large body of science which is telling us that the future is not going to be a simple continuation of past trends.I get a surreal sense of cognitive dissonance when I compare the two. Science is clearly and loudly telling us that the driver of these cornucopian trends – exponentially increasing consumption of natural resources – cannot conceivably continue unchanged without feedback consequences that will undermine the capacity of these trends to continue. We are producing this abundance of goods and services by using up the Earth’s capital – its non-renewable resources – at an ever-accelerating rate. The finite resources we are depleting in this way are not merely the Earth’s raw resources such as oil, coal, water and arable land, but also – and of much more immediate concern – the Earth’s capacity to safely absorb the waste products and pollution that we are generating in the accelerating production of goods and services.

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Figure 1: A comparison of the ‘business as usual’ (‘standard run’) projections of the 1972 Limits to Growth study with actual data for the subsequent 30 years from 1970 to 2000. Actual trends in key global indicators have closely followed the trends that were projected in 1972 by the’ Limits to Growth’ study if humanity makes no concerted effort to change our consumption pattern. Thus the projections of a crash if we continue to follow a pathway of accelerating consumption remain as likely as ever. The ‘Limits to Growth’ study also modelled different development pathways in which stabilisation of consumption after 1972 resulted in a stabilised system developing with relatively little social disruption (inset graph), however no projections from our current state can any longer produce this outcome. We have ignored the message of the ‘Limits to Growth’ study for too long for this to now be a possibility, and are facing a great disruption as a result. Reproduced from ‘New Scientist’ magazine (7th January 2012), based on Turner (2008).

Our trends of rapidly increasing resource consumption and accelerating production of waste products such as CO2 are running disturbingly close to the trajectory that was foreseen in 1972 by the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” study 1, which used a system dynamics computer model developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to simulate the consequences of increasing consumption at a first order (global) scale. That study was subsequently widely asserted to have been ‘disproven’, however most such criticisms were evidently made by critics who had never actually read the report, since they inaccurately claimed that it predicted exhaustion of certain resources before 2000, even though it actually made no such predictions at all (I have recently re-read the study to make sure). In fact, the report projected a continuing acceleration of growth in consumption of all resources, and consequent growth in food production, industrial output and services until sometime around 2020, after which it projected a deep crash as the consequences of over-consumption – particularly the effects of pollution – begin to overwhelm the capacity of consumption growth to continue. Far from these projections having been ‘disproven’, a recent comparison by CSIRO worker Graham Turner of actual global trends since 1970 with the ‘Limits to Growth’ study 1972 projections has demonstrated that global trends in food and industrial output, population increase and pollution (especially greenhouse gas emissions) have indeed continued along pathways disturbingly close to those projected in 1972 (Turner 2008 2; see Figure 1).

The continuing acceleration of consumption and output is what lulls those economists with little grasp of natural science into assuming that because things have never seemed better than they are now, it somehow follows that these trends will magically continue onwards indefinitely into the future. However unlimited growth is the philosophy of cancer. The original 1972 Limits to Growth study predicted the global economy would still be growing at an accelerating rate today (2013), even as it heads towards the inevitable crash that the same systems model predicted must result from continuing accelerated growth. The real consequences of over-consumption which must lead to its inevitable end are already starkly obvious to the scientific community, most obviously in the form of climate change. Through the increase in pollution – most particularly greenhouse gases – the effects of our great acceleration of industrial and agricultural production include steadily rising global average temperatures and sea-levels due to the rising thermal content of the atmosphere and ocean. Most ominously the consequent magnification of the Earth’s hydrological cycle is already causing a rapidly increasing frequency and/or magnitude of extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, cyclones, storm surges and bushfires. In effect, more frequent and intense extreme weather events is the natural feedback process by which over-consumption of natural resources is leading to its own end.

As increasingly intense and frequent droughts and flooding – especially in Asia and Africa – cause increasingly frequent crop failures, famines and starvation, deaths will increasingly affect not just millions, but billions of people world-wide, with inevitable social disruption and chaos leading to wars. As roads, towns and other infrastructure take repeated beatings from extreme weather events, it will become economically impossible to just keep rebuilding them all; vulnerable infrastructure and settlements will begin to be abandoned and remaining infrastructure will need to be rebuilt to new standards suited to a new climate. The easy air travel of today will become an increasingly rare privilege, even as the number of safe destinations to travel to shrinks.

It will not be the next “Generation Alpha” that will have the most lavish lifestyles in history. It is us – those of us born since World War II – that will be seen to have had the most lavish lifestyles ever; and the tragedy is that as a direct result, we have cheated Generation Alpha of their chance for equally good lifestyles.

Because our planetary civilisation has for forty years refused to heed the warnings of the Club of Rome during the 1970s – and widely continues to deny the existence of a problem even today – it is inevitable that the fool’s paradise of blithe over-consumption that we have been enjoying since World War II will end, and not in the distant future, but in the next few decades. The warnings are obvious in the global climatic system, and an increasingly concerned scientific community is struggling to understand why so few in politics or the public want to take the warnings seriously.

The most bizarre aspect of it all is that, just as we are reaching the Limits to Growth that were foreseen in 1972, so too is the denial of the very existence of those limits reaching an ever more shrill crescendo. Just as the evidence that there really are limits to growth has become strikingly plain, so too has the global obsession with increased resource consumption reached its highest levels and greatest acceleration in human history. We are bombarded with messages that growth is good and must continue. Just when the urgent necessity of stabilising our consumption of resources at a sustainable and steady level has never been clearer, we are accelerating that consumption to unprecedented levels and rates of increase.

We are setting ourselves up for a perfect crash.

Since Rachel Carson identified the problem in 1962 3 and even more so since the 1972 “Limits to Growth” study was published, a growing environment movement has been warning that unlimited industrial, agricultural and population growth without limits is impossible and unsustainable on a finite planet. Ever since then, right wing ideologues (and they have been mostly right wing) have denied this obvious fact, and have asserted that un-ending growth is not only possible and desirable, but even necessary. At the risk of sounding smug, the plain fact is that the reality of accelerating climate change is the evidence that environmentalists have been right about the self-limiting nature of growth all along, and the right wing ideologues resoundingly wrong. As a direct result, the right wing is in increasingly shrill denial and continues to urge ever accelerating rates of consumption, almost as if to thereby prove environmentalism wrong. The only possible outcome of this will be a far greater and more devastating crash than might have occurred, and one which could have been avoided entirely were it not for the denial.

So we have a society in a state of cognitive dissonance, caught between an economic narrative that says that growth has bought us so many good things that we simply must push on with more growth, and a scientific narrative which is telling us that this is simply impossible because we are already pushing up against the limits to growth. The big question is, how will this dissonance resolve itself?

There is one view which quite reasonably suggests that the power of denial is so great that there is little point trying to fight it directly; we will eventually adapt to the fact there are limits to growth, but only when the implacable physical reality of those limits finally forces us to do so 4. In effect, the real society-wide structural changes that are needed to decarbonise our technology and turn away from the unsustainable path of accelerating resource consumption will only happen when the disruption to our lives that is caused by the impacts of unmitigated climate change begins to exceed the degree of deliberate change, effort and consequent disruption to everyday life that is actually needed to turn things around (see Figure 2). It seems quite reasonable to believe that nothing less than intolerable disruption to everyday life will be what is needed to shake society out of its complacency, set aside denial, and begin to act with a sense of real urgency. How else can one interpret opinion polls which say that – even amongst Australians who accept climate change is real – many are unwilling to accept even modest extra costs to do so? ( 5 )

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Figure 2: Is this the best humanity can do? Real action to genuinely mitigate climate change begins only when the degree of (involuntary) disruption to everyday life caused by the impacts of climate change becomes equal to or greater than the degree of (voluntary) disruption to everyday life that is needed to really mitigate climate change. By which time a significant degree of climate change is ‘locked in’ and many dire consequences can no longer be avoided.

Considering both the clear scientific evidence that our growth trajectory is unsustainable, and the equally clear evidence that society is in deep denial about this, it seems eminently sensible to assume that a great disruption of the sort described above is what it will take to resolve the cognitive dissonance between these two narratives. But is this really going to be good enough?

The great danger is that if we wait until the inconvenience of climate change outweighs the inconvenience of really doing something genuine about it, we may have waited too long. We don’t really know how much climate change it will take for affluent and thus relatively resilient societies like Australia to finally agree that enough is enough. However we do know that the longer we delay decisive actions such as radically decarbonising our technologies and industries, the more change will be irrevocably locked into the global climate system. Already we are committed to a future of rising seas with increasing bushfire, flood and drought hazards for the next century or more. The predictable climatic range of the Twentieth Century which our cities, infrastructure and agriculture were designed for is already a thing of the past, although many have yet to realise this. Maybe we can cope with the changes to date, but the longer we wait the more disruptive will be the further changes that will become inevitable. If we wait too long we may be faced with a brave new world so far removed from the comfortable one we grew up in that it will be nearly unrecognisable. Is it really sensible or reasonable to take this risk and just wait for so much inevitable disruption to occur?

Of course the alternative to simply waiting for the impacts of climate change to become intolerable is much harder. The alternative involves acting in the light of reason and forethought; it requires actively confronting denial; actively facing down the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel industry and forcing them to leave coal and oil in the ground; actively confronting our politicians and governments until they really begin to legislate to effectively and rapidly decarbonise our economy no matter how politically or economically uncomfortable that may be – for us as well as them.

Given the power of denial and complacency, and the desire for continuing acceleration of consumption that lies behind it, is it even possible for humanity to act decisively to genuinely mitigate climate change on the basis of nothing more than mere facts and forethought? Whether we act decisively out of knowledge, reason and forethought, or wait until we have no choices left and our hands are finally forced, will define the quality of humanity at the point of the greatest crisis in our history. It will define whether we are really – as we so fondly imagine – the one species that has evolved the capacity to act rationally on the basis of knowledge and forethought; or whether we are really just like all the rest, a greedy, short-sighted and rather imperfect bunch who maybe can respond effectively in the short term when challenges actually impact on us, but are still too constrained by the baggage of our evolutionary traits as to react early enough to avert a planetary-scale crisis in time to avoid its worst impacts.

Refs

1 Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. & Behrens, W.W.III, 1972: ‘The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind’ Pan Books, 205pp.

2 Turner, G., 2008: ’A Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality’; CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, 49pp.

3 Rachel Carson 1962: “Silent Spring” The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 368 pp.

4 Paul Gilding has argued that humanity will in the end respond decisively to climate change with real mitigation actions, but only when the impact of climate change on our civilisation finally becomes so immediate and pervasive that denial becomes irrelevant (Paul Gilding 2011: “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring on the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World” Bloomsbury Press, 292pp.). Similarly David Bowman argues that there is little point in trying to “win” the climate debate with deniers; it is the inevitable need to adapt to the impacts of climate change that requires our immediate attention and which will in the end shift the debate in the direction of real action (David Bowman: “Winning the Climate Debate by Adapting” http://theconversation.com/winning-the-climate-debate-by-adapting-12409).

5 See for example “Rudd cools on emissions plan” The Mercury newspaper 28th April 2010, describing how – against a background of widespread public unwillingness to accept even modest extra expenses under an emissions trading scheme – Kevin Rudd backed away from tackling “the great moral and economic challenge of our time” because it was all starting to look a bit difficult and a bit politically unpalatable.

*Chris Sharples is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Tasmania where he dabbles in geomorphology and the effects of sea-level rise on coasts. He is also interested in trying to spot elephants in rooms, and state the bleeding obvious about them.

Main Image: Course of Emprie: Thomas Cole in the years 1833-36

CHRIS SHARPLES ON TASMANIAN TIMES:

The Order of the Universe – its Source and Implications …

Climate Change Alarmism as a Moral Responsibility

Tasmania, Tourism and the Elephant in the Room

• Via David Obendorf: Ancient forest giants – a lesson in a climate changing world

February 2009 saw two of the tallest trees on the Planet killed by wild fire. The [i]Eucalyptus regnans[/i] [Mountain Ash] died in the intensive Black Saturday bushfires that swept across Victoria on a day of ‘catastrophic’ weather conditions.

In the Wallaby Creek catchment in Kinglake NP a usually protected wet forest over 300 year old trees was all but wiped out.

[b]Big Ash 1[/b] [height 94.4 metres] and[b]Amabalis[/b] [height 91 metres] died on that day along with tens of thousands of their kind.

They were standing tall when the First Fleet arrived in 1788. They have lived through the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, the federation of Australia in 1901, two world wars and economic depressions, but one day brought catastrophe to this fire-insensitive Mountain Ash forest.

Only few dozen mature Mountain Ash in this 3000 ha forest on the Hume Plateau survived Black Saturday 2009.

Before Black Saturday this forest was considered one of the best old growth Mountain Ash forest in mainland Australia. Four years later it seems that about 50 or so of the trees have survived, in a number of separate clusters.

The few surviving tree remain in a sea of fire-killed Mountain Ash of similar height by some fluke of fire intensity; maybe as subtle as just a shift in the wind or some random movement of intense heat spared these survivors.

There has been prolific regrowth from seed but another wildfire in the next 10 to 30 years before all this regeneration has a chance to flower and set seed will see the Mountain Ash become an endangered tree species, a victim of increased fire frequency and climate change.

The giant Mountain Ash in the Styx valley in Tasmania could suffer a similar fate.

Read more:
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/fluke-of-fire-behaviour-spares-kings-of-the-forest-20130203-2dsmv.html

London Evening Standard: UK always ‘a few days away’ from serious food shortages, warn MPs

04 June 2013

Businesses should be penalised for wasting food and consumers should buy meat only as an occasional treat to protect future food supplies and keep prices down, a committee of MPs has recommended.

The International Development Committee warned that the UK is “never more than a few days away” from a significant food shortage and called on ministers to act to improve food security.

MPs urged the Government to redouble its efforts to cut the huge amount of discarded produce – estimated to be around 30% globally.

In its Global Food Security report, the committee also called on the UK to investigate whether nations should use domestic stockpiles of food to protect themselves from price spikes in the future.

Although the practice is costly, the increasing volatility of food prices means “there may be a case for judicious use of stocks to relieve the tightness of markets”, it said.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the International Development Committee, said: “There is no room for complacency about food security over the coming decades if UK consumers are to enjoy stable supplies and reasonable food prices.

“We have seen two notable ‘shocks’ or ‘spikes’ in global food prices over recent years, with price peaks in June 2008 and February 2011. These crises – driven by rising demand for food and by the impact of biofuels produced through agriculture – hurt many parts of the UK food industry and strongly undermined the global fight against hunger.”

He called for ministers to set producers and retailers targets for food waste reduction, with sanctions imposed if they are not met.

He said the Government should also push ahead with previous proposals to persuade households to cut the amount they throw out and promote schemes that redistribute unwanted food.

Increases in global meat consumption are unsustainable and, longer term, the focus should be on pasture-fed, rather than on grain-fed, livestock with meat promoted as a occasional product rather than an everyday staple, the committee said.

etc….

Fairfax: The health of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef has been downgraded to “poor” as the government quietly pushed some of the pollution targets that were supposed to be achieved this year back five years

The Independent: Water shortages for farmers ‘will make Britain dependent on imported crops’

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40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Got Me Some Control

    July 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I recall the demise of the quoll
    Since then we have been on a roll
    There’s three species now
    Just horse, sheep and cows
    At last we have won full control

  2. Penelope Marshall

    July 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    #33 Do you think the Tasmanian Government would let anyone look at the relationship between 1080 and the decline in numbers of Quoll? I think the muscling of Bronwyn Fancourt to change her paper should speak volumes. I reckon you would be swiftly dropped down a mine shaft for even mentioning it! Though some of us have been shouting it from the roof tops for years. Having a fourth Carnivore added to the endangered list would be a bit of an embarrassment to the Minister for the Environment Mr. Brian Wightman, not on his watch, it’s another case of I’ll just stick my head in the sand until this goes away.

  3. Ian Rist

    July 13, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Deny, deny, spin, spin…this Govts increasing anxiety over 1080 fox baits is deserved, they listened to the “experts” and the moneymakers and now their chickens are coming home to roost.

    1080 meat baits have wiped out whole populations of Spotted-tailed Quolls on the mainland and the fools here thought they could be greedy and get all the Federal money rolling in and to hell with the wildlife.

    STQ’s have a LD50 of only 1.85 milligrams of 1080 to one kilogram of their bodyweight, Tasmanian fox baits contain 3 milligrams of 1080.
    http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/tiger-quoll.html
    Number 4 Conclusion…. “In addition, inappropriate application of 1080 poison baits may also be contributing to declines”.
    CSIRO: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR95077.htm
    Eastern Quolls that sometimes weigh less than a kilo (juveniles and females) have a Lethal Dose 50 of only 3.73 milligrams per kilo of bodyweight.

    The stupidity of it all is they originally asked us to believe they were protecting our wildlife by eradicating non-existent Red Foxes with hundreds of thousands of meat based 1080 baits.
    This all has some way to go yet………………

  4. russell

    July 13, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Flags were flown when Mr Gay indicated to all, there were too many critters out there. Too many for industry that is. Is the environment portfolio superfluous? Is clearing Tassie bush of critters requisite for industry, so there is no need for pesky enviros to even be there? Is this a must, for industry to have an unfettered hand in clearing the bush? How else can we have plantation isle? Is plantation isle considered to be a panacea for climate change? If we can just keep on with new E nitens plantings all over the place it will all be well for industry, it is claimed. Climate… well?
    Critters are more valuable for zoo research anyway.

  5. Jack Jolly

    July 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    #33

    I just looked at the susceptibility of the Eastern quoll to 1080. It seems that when their average weight is taken into account if they eat a full fox bait, in theory, half of the population should die. Is that right? Does that mean that smaller animals would be more likely to die? So, has anyone looked at 1080 baiting assisting their decline?

  6. Jack Jolly

    July 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    #31 David. Perhaps the captain of the Costa Concordia supplied the best nautical metaphor. Sailing close to the shore for one last hubristic wave goodbye the ship hit the rocks. Too late for a mutiny once the consequences of inaction and silence are realised.

    #32. A.K. I agree (with #31 too) that the tipping point has probably been reached and that a global technofix is now unrealistic. Rivers of cars indeed #31.

    But I think the issues you (#32) raise concerning Tasmania are pretty much the positive way forward where our energy should be focused. Tas is in an almost unique position, although currently being captained by those who are the ilk of the captain of the Costa Concordia. This realisation must come from the grass roots of Tasmanians and in my opinion this is far more achievable than for the mainland. In fact, the lower level of industrialisation and population in Tas makes change easier than for any other state. What is commonly seen as an economic disaster is actually a strength as it is the parasitic corporations that make change hard. Action does speak louder than words, but don’t we need to try and show people the vision of a better future before we throw in the towel? It seems that so many people are distracted and mislead. It is not a future of tree hugging and mung bean eating, but the only rationale way forward.

    #33 A good example of the above and an ecologist with balls (no irony or pun intended). I gather that the issue was the Tas government pressuring this scientist to use flawed data to prop up a politically expedient position? How disgusting. How typical of the common thread we seem to be discussing which is the manipulation and corruption of information by those politically motivated supporters of the status quo.

    So what would be the impact of a 1080 bait upon an eastern quoll?

  7. Ian Rist

    July 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Of course David your “hundreds of thousands of meat based 1080 baits is on the money !
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-12/how-endangered-is-the-eastern-quoll/4817756
    I loved seeing the X D.P.I.P.W.E biologist on ABC 7.30 Friday 12th July, his not agreeing with listing the Eastern Quoll wouldn’t have anything to do with him being an instigator of the meat based 1080 fox baiting program would it?
    Anyone with a few brain cells would know 350,000 plus meat based 1080 baits must have impacted our Native carnivores… the LD50 of the Eastern Quoll and its ability to excavate and consume meat baits is well known…why is everyone avoiding the issue?

    There is plenty of photographic and video footage of Eastern Quolls visiting and excavating 1080 fox baits at Tasmanian fox baiting sites (Hansard lists at least a dozen examples).

  8. David Obendorf

    July 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Someone who took up the ‘real fight’ – as Jack Jolly described it – for Tasmania’s ecology is [b]Bronwyn Fancourt[/b] UTAS ecologist researching the population of eastern quolls.

    That was highlighted on [i]ABC 1 – 7.30 Tasmania[/i] on Friday.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-12/fears-the-government-is-ignoring-the-plight-of-the/4817736

    The fourth dasyurid marsupial in Tasmania – the Eastern Quoll – is in population decline sufficient to warrant it being listed as a ‘threaened species’. It’s population decline trend fulfils the criteria under the Act for listing.

    The current Minister for the Environment in Tasmania, [b]Brian Wightman[/b] refused despite receiving a clear scientific recommendation from the Scientific Advisory Committee to the [i]Tasmanian Threatened Species Act[/i] to list the quoll.

    It’s said, nature abhors a vaccuum and this is very clear here… Brian Wightman has taken up the same ecological niche occupied by the other Labor, anti-environment Minister, [b]David Llewellyn[/b].

    Maybe the decline was due to Tasmanian foxes eating them? Or maybe they died from eating the hundreds of thousands of meat 1080 baits that Mr Wightman and his predecessor authorised to be broadcast around Tasmania from 20o3 to 2013.

    Who cares?… certainly Minister Wightman isn’t particularly interested.

  9. A.K.

    July 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    #29, Jack, there is no strategy, it’s to late by far. Nothing can stop the direction the ecology and food chain is going, ideological humans have denial and buck passing as their prime mantra. Ideological humanity also have a very short attention span when dealing with fact. It looms up, they show horror at what it represents, then go back to their programming believing they have dealt with it, because they’ve acknowledged its existence. But it will make no difference to their approach to life, their programming doesn’t allow for change, only repetition and denial.

    Tas is probably the only place on the planet where positive changes would make a real difference, but we are controlled by overseas interests, politically, economically and socially. To undertake the changes required to save our state from total devastation, would require us to virtually go our separate way in most respects and develop self sufficiency in all ways within 2 years. This would shut down the economic drain caused by a small number of corporate monopolies control over our entire economy for profit increase, not 21st century development or progress.

    Politically the only way to take over power would be to organise some independent people to run with only one similar policy, hand power over to the people within 6 months to institute an on line referendum style of government. There would need to be interim measures to get things going, but after that it would be up to all of us to propose, debate, make and implement the right decisions for our future, with no one else to blame.

    #30 Phillip, if we were to approach the future along the same lines as indigenous Tasmanians did using our technology, we would still have a pristine highly developed sustainable society and not one on it’s last legs.

  10. David Obendorf

    July 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Jack Jolly – sorry to be a pessimistic here but… when ordinary human beings get a safe comfortable job as a navvy, they don’t decide to launch a mutiny just because they discover their captain is a socio-path with no empathy and is drugged to the eye-balls on a favourite on-board addiction and the ship is sinking.

    It going to have to get a great deal more [i]entropic[/i] and unsustainable to life for selfish humans and there may need to be several very serious and sudden collapses in regions of high human population density – comparable to catastrophic wars – before the sociopaths in charge decide to give up their addictions and go to the brig to detox.

    Even then, it could be too late. Biodiversity on the Planet is showing the way… all down-hill after their tipping point was reached about 30 years ago.

  11. Philip Lowe

    July 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I’m surprised that none of you guys made any reference to the now extinct original peoples of Tasmania/Van Diemen’s Land,and before that,?.
    60,000 years of unblemished,untarnished,unpolluted
    existence;and then whammy,200 years of trying to emulate the oldies back in the Western world.The beaches get poisoned,rivers run toxic yellow etc.
    Mates, you should see the toxic rivers of traffic in Europe.It has a mad foulness about it.Eat,drink and be merry;and keep your bowels regular.There is nothing else to do.The horsemen are riding.

  12. Jack Jolly

    July 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    #23 Sue sums up a big part of this issue very well. We struggle so much with this in part because of the inability to discern shit from clay. It is a mistake to think that in the age of the ‘information revolution’ that our society is driven by true knowledge, rather than self-serving regurgitation that has the ring of ‘look at moi, look at moi!’ about it.

    #24 You are spot on. That’s how I interpreted it. Perhaps it was a failure to understand the nature of the human animal? Unfortunately, the inertia that has found its way into the ecological sciences will not shift rapidly as the current incumbents will be loath to change their comfortable culture.

    Interestingly, the vapid ‘Deep Ecology’ movement probably did much to spit ecology as a discipline. Some went off hugging trees and investigating their spiritual connection with wombat poo thinking that everyone would eventually don a kaftan and follow barefoot. Maybe, we saw a retreat to the extremes that left a vacant middle ground?

    A.K’s #18 frustrations seem to be that the opportunity is there in Tasmania, but little is done in practice. In part, the chattering ecologists need to integrate with people who do things and become practical and applied. This means taking on those who propose the antithesis of what science is demanding or get out of the way.

    #25 It is a moral failing. What else do you call it when you chatter so much about the world and various plights in a safe and detached way, pay the rent to your owners, yet fear taking up the real fight?

    Ok, I’ll call a spade a spade. I agree with #24 on virtually all that context, although I believe that cowardice now grips ecology. Ecologists, with a few notable and lonesome examples, never grew the balls to take on the economists, business dogma, MBAs and political ideology that is killing the planet. Their moderate and safe citadel blocks A.K’s road and a better vision.

    So A.K., what is the strategy?

  13. Chris Sharples

    July 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    This is a really useful discussion. If I may paraphrase I detect two really useful points emerging:

    (1) Back in the 1970s a lot of thoughtful people assumed that humanity was ultimately rational; that if you logically identified a problem (like the limits to growth) then people would respond appropriately, and genuinely work to solve the problem. I think the logic at the time was something along the lines of “if we can get to the moon (with 1960s technology!), then surely we can solve this one too!”. That was before we discovered how strong the power of self-interest could be; that it could drive a person (and corporations, etc) to genuinely convince themselves that a problem that interferes with their aspirations (or greed) is just not real (because they don’t want it to be). This is to say that denial is a much more fundamental part of our nature than we used to think. (Something tells me there is likely to be an evolutionary reason for this – did it serve a useful purpose when life was much simpler, but has become counter-productive in our present context? But I can’t quite put my finger on that.)

    (2) Related to this, how easy it is for people who actually say that they accept the reality of something like the limits to growth, to then find that it’s just too inconvenient to really do anything about it, that there are other more pressing matters like career and family and financial security to consider so they set it aside “for now”. Which is basically just another level of denial – accepting that a problem is real, but still managing to deny that there’s any immediate need to do anything about it.

    So actually I’ve detected one point – in one way or another, the central problem is our tendency to deny the reality or at least the importance of things that conflict with how we’d like our lives to be. (OK OK, maybe I’m just seeing this as the emergent issue because I was already convinced that denial is the central problem – but even if so I think this thread is tending to the same insight anyway.)

    In any case this is actually is a source of hope, I think. It’s not as if we don’t know anything about the psychology of denial. Palliative care professionals have to deal with denial (amongst terminal patients) all the time. And maybe there are relevant insights from evolutionary psychology that can help us understand the causes of denial better? There must be some lessons learnt in such ways that can help us find a way to transcend the denial that seems to me to be the root of our collective failure to respond effectively to our knowledge of the limits to growth? Is this the seed of one possible way forward – focus more on how we might overcome the denial which is the really basic thing stopping effective action for deep change?

    Note that I’m suggesting here that our crisis may not be terminal but rather transformative (which is why I refuse to be categorised as a ‘doomsayer’, but continue to regard it as rational to remain an optimist).

    Or is there really no solution other than waiting for the implacable physical reality of the limits to do the necessary work for us? Which brings me back to my original article…

  14. phill Parsons

    July 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    #25 raises the conundrum that faced the Labor Party’s of the world as the struggled between the competing values of having power [at some times], the objectives of the Party, the Party members support, what the community will accept in one go and the objective conditions.

    In understanding the emergence of new ideas in society one has to accept that as they become mainstream so society will influence those very ideas, a Stockholm syndrome.

    You can see from the reaction od the old parties in Australia’s first past the post electorates a struggle for their survival under the pressures of the objective conditions we are seeing emerge and were advanced by various streams of ‘green’ thought.

    Collapse of the biosphere under the twin pressures of Carbon emissions and resource demand by an unsustainable population when the western living standard is advanced as the model to be adopted.

    At it’s heart lies an economic system [free market capitalism] from which Labor Party’s once dreamed of breaking free only to find that many people tied to their animal past are unable to recognize their materialist dreams are the cause of the decline of the structures and systems that sustain all life and their consumer dreams.

    It may be that we need to loose badly before a restructure. Of course this risks complete loss of the accumulation of human activity, its physical and intellectual property.

    Apparently for thinking and expressing such ideas is seen as radical whilst actually destroying life and risking a more complete destruction is called business, especially by the fossil fuels and their denier sycophants. Yes the Abbott gang is included.

    Funny you never see pro lifers at environmental protests as pro lifers. Musty only be one life form they are pro, one that would be nothing without all the others.

  15. Bonni Hall

    July 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Re #21. Thank you so much for a bit of levity! Much appreciated.

  16. David Obendorf

    July 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Jack Jolly asks the question: [i]How come ecologists are in the main detached from the world population growth issues?[/i] I despair along with you Jack.

    In my experience an academic ecologist or a practicing ecologist realises very quickly that it is not politically correct to actually challenge the organisations that employ them.

    Most public science funded ecology is done in an almost mute and civilised form because Rule No. 1 is that you don’t blame anthropogenic effects, you look for elegant ‘solutions’ to entropy and you create a career full of jollies to biodiversity hotspots and you publish papers non-hysterically plotting the decline in global biodiversity.

    And if you a well-paid government ecologist you are likely to shackled to a dreary work station with a very full in tray of turgid reports than prevents you from seeing a natural ecosystem beyond your backyard at weekends.

    Ecologists learn to definitely not frighten politicians and not to speak truth to the powerful. [Your job would be threatened, for goodness sakes!]

    And then when our naked Emperors have realised for themselves that it [b]IS[/b] a real crisis, ecologists collectively can find their voices and say calmly: ‘Yes, Minister’.

    PS: Over 70% of the coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is reported as dead. And Ta Ann Tasmania has recently been rewarded with a payment of $26 million for destroying Tasmanian HCV forests.

    PPS: Political whistleblowing from Green politicians is increasingly unlikely because in minority they can’t exert any real change and current Green pollies (with a few exceptions) are no longer radical, boat-rocker types. Banning (some) plastic bags is the limit of their progressive policy.

  17. Moriarty

    July 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    #17 – I have to agree with you that the ‘progressives’ (used here as a catch-all term that includes the ecologists and scientists you refer to) dropped the ball by not providing a counter-view/framework in which to harness change. But I think (putting myself back there) that a key reason for this was they didn’t think it was needed. It was an era of progressive change and that progressive change (note the parallel irony re this article’s points) was seen as inevitable and ongoing. Point out the problems and they will be addressed was the view (and often still is today – nod to A.K here). Even through the 1980s the progressive camp considered the return of the 19th century free-market (Thatcherism etc) as an inexplicable abberration, rather than the future and didn’t fight it so much as remain puzzled by it. They didn’t see themselves as retreating into their ivory towers, as they, falsely, thought their ivory towers were still connected to the mainstream. Sadly they were totally wrong and by the time this was recognised (1990s) most of them were retiring to be replaced by the self-serving, citation seeking B division still largely in service today.

    P.S. Chris – the accuracy of 1972 The Limits to Growth report has been scaring the s*** out of me for the last 25 years!

  18. Sue DeNim

    July 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you for those references Gwenda. They look fascinating, especially to me being ambidextrous but mostly left handed. We do indeed create our world by reaction to our perception.

    Jack Jolly also makes some very good points. How is that we are still teaching people how to be greedy little capitalists, totally disconnected from the natural world.

    History is so often perceived and conveyed as dates and events where its real value is providing evidence that people throughout history have had similar thought processes, dilemmas and have tackled similar problems before. Every new generation seems to have the notion that the previous were somehow not as smart and a little quaint, where as the exact opposite was true.
    As we have relied more on our technology and become more comfortable we have become less able to actually use our brains to its full potential.
    Rather than absorbing information and retaining it, it now just seems to wash over us in an endless torrent and we pick and choose snippets when we feel we need to sound smart.
    Rather than teaching us what to think, Philosophy teaches us how to think, rationally and logically. To cut through the hype and recognise the bogus.
    I dare say Religious studies would also be valuable, but in the sense of teaching the central tenets of all religions which are peace, tolerance, and love for your fellow being and the life-force that sustains you. Not fables, dogma and imaginary omnipotent (but seemingly impotent)condescending paternal figures.
    In our endless quest to categorise and our lust for minutia, we have distanced ourselves from and forgotten the big picture. This planet sustains us, not the other way round.

    Number 21, thanks for the levity 😉

  19. John Wade

    July 11, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    “Can it get any worse”? No, not if we succumb to fear and put the liberals, labor or greens in to govern.

    I just love this quote from a thinker, so I thought I will transpose it, “They have the ability to bypass all natural laws and systems that have been set in motion by a higher ‘power’ in order to protect the next generations from being economically aborted by bad government economic policies and legislation.”

    From the site – http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/07/09/Snowden-Leak-Story-Is-Straight-From-The-MSM-Plantation

  20. Got Me an Arse

    July 11, 2013 at 2:33 am

    There once was a planet called Farce
    Where people lost all sense of class
    They got fat and watched porn
    Til their genes did reform
    And now they’re just eyes, mouth and arse

  21. Len Davidson

    July 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Chris thank you for this story.

    Jeremy Rifkin said a year or two back in ‘The Empathic Civilization’ we are now experiencing a massive increase in consciousness, awareness and empathy. At the same time, we are also in the middle of massive ecological collapse. I was somewhat optimistic a year or two back, but to be honest I really don’t know if we’re going to catch it in time based on what I see going on around us.

    If we are to have any chance, it will need to be a multifaceted response, driven mainly from the grass-roots.

    The voice of Paul Kingsnorth in ‘Hope in the Age of Collapse’ seems to resonate most strongly with me.

    http://thoreaufarm.org/2012/04/hope-in-the-age-of-collapse/

    Big thanks again for an important conversation, one that is very difficult to grapple with.

  22. Gwenda Sheridan

    July 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Chris thank you. Keep up the insightful articles. And #15, Sue thank you for bringing to the surface the lack of history and philosophy teaching. Add to those disciplines, the lack of geography /ecosystem teaching and the non recognition that all need to be connected to modern strategic and /or development planning. The result is a real disjunct to place, to landscape, to character, evolution, sense of place and Genius loci. At all levels, local, regional level or beyond.
    Two amazing publications come to mind in connection with this thread. One is the Nature of Order by Christopher Alexander with four discrete books comprising that title.
    http://www.natureoforder.com/
    …” Five hundred years is a long time and I don’t expect many of the people I interview will be known in the year 2,500. Christopher Alexander may be an exception.” David Creelman, Author, Interviewer and Editor, Knowldedge Manager, HR magazine Toronto. Book 1 The Phenomenon of Life Book Book 1, 2 The Process of Creating Life; Book 3 A Vision of a Living World; Book 4 The Luminous Ground.
    This is creatively beautiful, enormously thought provoking, amazingly intelligent thinking and writing, a genius drawing the humanities and science together showing how whole environments can be created. I’ll leave it to readers to explore for themselves.
    There is the wonderful book of Iain McGilchrist The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. [Yale. 2009]
    To me personally, this was a profound piece of research revealing not only how the two hemispheres of the brain work, but how that difference has been responsible for carrying humanity across 2000 years of civilisation. McGilchrist’s research (20 years of it) and his very insightful, fascinating, often disturbing conclusions are there for all of us. We increasingly live in a world in which the left hemisphere dominates thought, with the author writing a chilling conclusion of where this is likely to take us. McGilchrist perceives a much more harmonious society when the two hemispheres are working conjunctively, that is the right hemisphere is equally active if not well to the fore, hence the title. The left hemisphere is not capable of “new” thought; rather it acts like a hall of mirrors and thinks it can do what it can’t.
    You’ll find an interview with this author in the ABC. RN archive All in the Mind. The website is http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com and the introduction to the book is online.
    Gwenda Sheridan

  23. A.K.

    July 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    #7 Chris, talking about the real future is not negative and needs to be done, but that’s all that happens. Every ideological human has an excuse or reason why they are not doing anything, but talk or deny their relationship with the reality.

    Your post shows this to be the case by your own words, you would do something, but. By the way electric cars are only expensive because of the political bias towards fossil fuel vehicles. If you remove the subsidies, hand outs and tax relief the motor vehicle and fuel industries get, electric cars would be much cheaper and safer on all fronts.

    With electric public transport, they want to stick to 19 century light rail, which is heavy, infrastructure, maintenance and vehicle costly, when there are 21st century options which will be about 15% of the cost.

    It’s the same with every aspect of life, safe, modern, low cost no polluting long term sustainable alternatives are all around us, but they don’t equate to profit growth and political power for the ideological elites. They equate to sanity, people power, sustainable lifestyles and environments, along with equality of opportunity for all life. Something ideologists have no idea of understanding because of their unfettered greed, gluttony and never ending abuse of life and the future, just to satisfy their egocentric denial.

    Of course enough talk leads to action, but at this time of evolution, talk is useless in every way, when the reality is all around us with growing daily reminders of the facts. The need for talk was last century, the need for action was last century. Ideologists babble a lot and that’s all they do as everything is within their minds and completely unattached to reality in every way.

    Those who do, rather than those who talk, are who benefit from their actions. Anything else is just delusionary fantasy land thinking. The facts are, there will be no mitigating or remedial action, it just doesn’t fit into any of the political parties agenda’s, it’s no even important enough for the greens or other environmental groups, all they want is power at any cost.

    Tas could turn the situation around in less than 3 years and have viewable successful outcomes within one year, we have the resources and population status to be able to achieve it rapidly. Standards of living would increase, prices would go down and there would be no unemployment or major environmental pollution.

    The main problem is, it would remove the power of multinationals, political parties and other ideologies by handing it to the people. So it will never happen, no ideologue is prepared to give up their desire for power, denial and elitism. They will destroy life on the planet to maintain their primitive insanity, the proof is all around us.

    #15, Sue not angry, frustrated in some regards and used to suffering derision because of the way I look at and approach life. Ideologues deride themselves with their approach, claims and outcomes, it’s called reality, something ideologues have no comprehension of.

  24. Jack Jolly

    July 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Unfortunately, I think A.K. #4 is largely correct in this analysis. Yet as Sue #15 points out, the blame is rather closer to home and more disturbing because of it. It’s at the level of our species and therefore very collective.

    The Club of Rome’s ‘limits to growth’ was authored at a time when many environmental and ecological scientists thought that people would embrace change, because it was the right thing to do. It is largely a collective moral failing that people found greater priorities. Back then, no one knew just how irrational and selfish the untethered ego was going to be when armed with technology and the ability to consume.

    However, much of the failing to follow through on the Club of Rome’s work does indeed rest with ecologists and environmental scientists as a group of elites. They did not develop a counter discipline to the dangerous politics, economics, business and finance ideology and turn it into a useful ethic and practical action. Few saw this as their role and somehow most did not seem to have genuine belief in their cause. As A.K. might suggest, they retreated into their elite caves of academia and became ever more detached from the practicality of what was happening. Ecology was redefined to a largely theoretical and non-political discipline that chattered a lot. As bankers hit their stride, most ecologists became hands off and mesmerized by their computers.

    It is a little bit too easy for ecologists to be smug these days. Yet look around. Where is the profound teaching of ecology and a passion for our environment in our schools? Why aren’t lawyers, economists and bankers force fed environmental science at uni? How come economists and politicians prattle about growth and we hear only silence in reply from most universities? Why are business schools allowed to teach people how to destroy the world? How come ecologists are in the main detached from the world population growth issues?

    The answer is partly to be found in what A.K. says. Many did sell out and they need to be reminded of it.

  25. phill Parsons

    July 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Here we have the future of species to survive changes to the climate.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130709175747.htm
    And a report on a particular amalgamation of invertebrates.
    http://www.theage.com.au/environment/great-barrier-reef-now-rated-poor-20130710-2pqqd.html
    The second flags the impacts of climate instability on the Reef.
    The evidence interpreted by scientists is providing an almost continuous stream of negative impacts.
    ?Oh yes, much worse.” #1

  26. Sue DeNim

    July 10, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Thank you, thank you Chris Sharples for this, clear, concise and very indisputable article, as well as your response to A.K. Do not be perturbed by A.K.
    He is with you really, and though also quite right the bulk of the time here, he is just at the next level of anger, frustration and derision (Can’t say I blame him).
    Your response resonates with me in that I only engage in comments here, and online activism because without it I completely despair and feel totally impotent. Those of us who know and care must continue to rage against the machine, otherwise the machine wins by default. Not a future I want.
    I was very impressed by how clear Jared Diamond made it in ‘Collapse’. This is the problem with not teaching History and Philosophy as standard all the way through school. We’ve done it all before and failed each time. We still haven’t learned.
    Abundance creates confidence, confidence creates arrogance, arrogance creates blindness to reality, reality deprives abundance. We pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, forget and start again. Only this time I fear we won’t be dusting ourselves off. Even if we do we could save ourselves alot of trouble.
    For those who can’t stomach ‘hefty books’ but can understand subtext, the messages also abound in Movies such as The Matrix and Terminator.
    They hold a mirror up to our inability to recognise our impending downfall at our own hands, to break from our own self deification and admit we can make a mistake.
    When alls said and done, its rather both sad and laughable how primitive it is.
    Trinkets and baubles are flashy, those who have trinkets and baubles get the attention and power, so lets step over each other to get the trinkets and baubles and continue to marginalise those who don’t have them but also want them because theres not enough to go around.
    Those who continue to blame the government have to look closer to home. They only make the economy and jobs and big houses and flashy cars a priority because by our actions and spending, we signal that this is what we want to be the priority. Advertising only works because we are insecure and afraid. Grow a brain, don’t believe the hype, and free yourself from the bullshit.
    Thanks Chris for more signal and less noise.
    Still waiting for the great leap forward……..

  27. William Boeder

    July 9, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Chris Sharples you have delivered an article of how quietly move the elements that may well lead to the termination of that which is presently enjoyed by most all in our society.

    However there is a significant analogy to that which immediately will imbed itself in the minds of the people were they all to research the history of the word corporation.

    That this World as we now know it is essentially in free fall as to its past and present being a splendid beneficent platform for us all to dwell upon, so do become those very actions and applications by those empowered in the Worlds largest of business corporations as they hasten this ultimate demise that portends to be our facilitated limited destiny.
    In facts are that it could be quite easily considered that the World’s corporations, (along with the subject matter of this article) go forward hand in hand to provide us with what is portended to be the ultimate demise of our lives as we do now experience.

    There may be many doubters out there in the land of football, beer and fast motor cars, however for those persons possessed of speed reading skills and a desire to understand the relativity to my analogy as I have here presented, tis but a matter of typing into Google the word corporation, in which will lead to the Wikipedia page given over to corporation.
    Then on doing so open up the link in the contents box listing further references to corporation, to click open the History of corporation law in America, from then on welcome to over 200 pdf pages to do with corporations in during the time of its inception in America.

  28. Garry Stannus

    July 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    A well presented article. I congratulate Chris Sharples on it. It follows that “The next war won’t have guns” article by Steve Biddulph. [ http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/the-next-war-wont-have-guns/ ] Chris’s conclusion warrants reflection:

    “Given the power of denial and complacency, and the desire for continuing acceleration of consumption that lies behind it, is it even possible for humanity to act decisively to genuinely mitigate climate change on the basis of nothing more than mere facts and forethought?  Whether we act decisively out of knowledge, reason and forethought, or wait until we have no choices left and our hands are finally forced, will define the quality of humanity at the point of the greatest crisis in our history.  It will define whether we are really – as we so fondly imagine – the one species that has evolved the capacity to act rationally on the basis of knowledge and forethought; or whether we are really just like all the rest, a greedy, short-sighted and rather imperfect bunch who maybe can respond effectively in the short term when challenges actually impact on us, but are still too constrained by the baggage of our evolutionary traits as to react early enough to avert a planetary-scale crisis in time to avoid its worst impacts.”

    I wonder about this term “humanity”. It seems to carry within it a notion that, all things being equal, we can act together, the whole race of us, for the common good. Sort of ‘the United Nations’ become true. Perhaps we can, and I do advocate such a path. But I also wonder whether our cultures handicap us. For example, the tendency to believe in the hereafter seems to allow many of us to put aside the present dilemmas. I hope we can solve it. I think we have to reform the UN, to get the ‘great powers’ to give away their vetoes and to accept an equal place among the nations of the world. This is how I see it:

    “We’re all alone, on Planet Earth; tied to the Sun, which gave us birth
    and the Milky Way, goes round and round: we’re lost in Space, we won’t be found. ”

    Back on Earth for a moment … (Grin) … on Steve Biddulph’s thread we had a bit of a discussion on capitalism and on whether ‘growth’ was a necessary constituent of the capitalist model. It’s widely thought that the system requires growth and I used to automatically think that it was inherent to capitalism. But when wishing to verify that notion (after holding it for decades) … I could not! Some contributors to Steve’s comment thread explained it to me, but I didn’t understand their explanations. Does capitalism have to be voracious, have to be ever-expanding? And why? Can capitalism not exist in a static economy?

  29. T Keane

    July 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    It’s easy to miss the change in tenor of articles/research/etc on these sorts of topics over the last 10 years or so. We’ve gone from warning about a possible terrible future to talking about coping with the irreversible changes – largely predicted years ago – that are now upon us.

    The only constant is growth. Well growth & global inaction. And such diverse elements as a massively funded denial industry.

    It’s very much like the (mythical) frog in a heated pan of water.

  30. pat synge

    July 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    What’s all this talk about “generation Alpha”?
    We’ve had generations X & Y but no one seems to want to talk about “Generation Z”

    It does sound a bit terminal doesn’t it!

  31. David Obendorf

    July 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    In my opinion Chris Sharples the feature that gets ordinary individuals out of the complacency of doing what they always do is to start with compassion and wisdom.

    Currently Tasmania does not have credibile leaders who also exert ultimate power. They have a ‘water of a duck’s back’ approach to engagement with ordinary people about the running down of life-sustaining environmental resources. They smirk in the face of peril; no empathy and sincerity. They are caught up in a silly game – [i]’The one who dies with the most toys wins!’ [/i]

    That arrogance of ignorance and a lack of empathy turns people to developing community resilence that does not rely on top-down inauthentic, appeasing political processes. We just haven’t got the time to put lipstick on a pig and strut the spin-doctor stage to advertise the newest brand of Band-aid.

    Our democractic ‘watchdogs’ are old, self-serving critters that are easily bullied by big industry and powerful political forces. And so the [i]entropy[/i] of the Planet continues because politicians don’t seriously get it yet and aren’t authentic.

    We still play [i]Monopoly[/i] because so much of our addictive Western culture rewards those types of game players!

    Keep going Chris but do waste your time trying to convince our same-old, glazed-over politicians, they don’t engage.

  32. phill Parsons

    July 9, 2013 at 11:16 am

    If a made thing, such as a car, is embodied Carbon inserted during manufacture then keeping it on the road and not consuming ‘newly’ embodied Carbon is a form of climate action.

    Talk always leads to action but action can also lead to same. Currently its mostly talk with a little action, some highlighting the issue and some addressing the edges of energy transformation.

    At the moment the only party in the Australian election that has a serious approach to action about reducing Carbon emissions is the Greens.

    Take another action.

  33. Mike Adams

    July 8, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    The coming election, I’m assured by a friend and jobbing gardener, is about jobs and prices. Nothing else matters.
    The Greens will be wiped out, he says: their ‘no development’ message has struck home.
    As for Climate Change: that’s in the future and not certain.

    As for the Liberals:how long before they ditch Abbott?

  34. Chris Sharples

    July 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I partly but not entirely agree with #4. Yes a lot of talk is just smarty-pants babble by wannabe philosophers who like to sound sophisticated & serious but would never inconvenience themselves by doing anything real about it. They irritate me too…

    But on the other hand, in regard to issues like the limits to growth, what if nobody said anything, afraid to appear as just another talking head “all words and no action”? Then we’d be able to comfortably forget the problem altogether until its implacably physical reality finally devastates us.

    Talking about it has to be part of the solution. That’s why I’m writing this stuff – I seriously believe in the old adage that “the pen is more powerful than the sword”. So I think its important to keep reminding people its real and its not going away. My intention is optimistic, even if it sounds like “doom-saying” as the deniers would put it. I’m not saying we’re doomed or anything like that, I’m saying we have a challenge and I’m asking us to prove we have what it takes to face up to it.

    Regarding personal action, yes I still drive a petrol-driven car etc etc. That’s because if I dis-engaged from the system that needs change, I would end up impotent to change it anyway (plus I simply can’t afford an electric car right now…). But the sort of changes we really need are the big structural ones, like radically decarbonising industry. I’ll buy an electric car running off hydro, solar & wind generated electricity just as soon as I can (and we are ideally positioned for that in Tasmania, just quietly…), but in the meantime I’ll continue agitating for and talking about those structural changes -which includes making electric cars more affordable and available – in the hope of making a difference.

    I think enough talk can and historically does lead to action. Whereas not talking about it will definitely result in no action!

  35. john hayward

    July 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Even if H sapiens could work out how to survive all the technical problems of the anthropocene, imagine how soul-crushingly ugly, smelly and banal it will be. Thank god we have a terminator gene plaited into the religious gene.

    John Hayward

  36. TGC

    July 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    If we are going to have a crash- it might as well be “perfect”- no point messing about with an inferior outcome.

  37. A.K.

    July 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    A good description of the clash between ideological humanity and reality, only one winner, reality. Read and discussed the “limits of growth” study back in the 1970’s with uni friends at the time. They all agreed it was inevitable and everyone should and would do what they can to make sure it doesn’t happen. Those same surviving people have positions in senior bureaucracy, universities and business, not one has done anything to help alleviate the problems, even though they still talk about them. Their lives revolve around elitist consumption so they can maintain their status within their social set.

    Ideology is all about denial, firstly denial of our own internal reality and denial of all the reality that surrounds us. Ideologists believe if they speak up about these things using good semantic babble, it will exonerate them from blame because they can express the situation in a meaningful way to them, when in reality it is meaningless in all respects.

    Ideological humanity believe it is their thoughts that matter and make a difference and their actions make no difference to their credibility or truth. This is born out throughout our entire society and is currently represented by the sudden surge in favour of Rudd, even though Rudd has nothing to offer, except faster disaster, as he clings desperately to his bible of empty hope.

    There can be no optimism in people supposedly communicating the message, unless they can provide an example to follow to alleviate the problem. But the reality is, they act exactly the same irresponsible way as everyone else in life, when only direct action by individuals will make any difference.

    Denial, self interest, egocentricity, avoidance of responsibility, lack of individuality, all representations of ideological humanity and sadly that represents about 99% of humans. You can count on one hand the number of people in Tas, who are approaching life according the the reality of it, whilst the rest approach it like there is no tomorrow and the reality is, there is not tomorrow, just a sudden collapse of the food chain and eco systems. The problem is, most won’t see it until it actually happens. Until then everything will be looking rosy in their urban fantasy land life.

  38. Jack Jolly

    July 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    An excellent article.

    The ideology of selfish individualism underlies western society and fuels ‘aspirational’ consumption as it taps into some deep and primal drives. It is almost a prime directive of the US-based ‘free-enterprise’ system. Collective action or less excessive consumption is often equated with an ‘anti-American’ ideology or even ‘communism’.

    The manner in which it is ideologically fire walled from the global consequences it produces is frightening as it is suggestive of a societal delusion so profound that it is far more powerful than religion, if it is not actually a religion itself. It is nothing short of the dominant world paradigm.

    Such paradigms must crash as they only fail when they stop serving people.

    Those peoples ahead of the curve in realising this will have a better life in a new future and so will their children. In fact, it could be a great life for alphas in Tasmania, mainland Australia and New Zealand. But It means being bold, different and having a vision of a life where consumerism and material goods alone are not the measure of success or status. Island nations blessed with resources, skills, small populations and distant from the epicentre of the growing ideological calamity will do better than most.

    However, most leaders will attempt to lash us more firmly to the ship as it sinks. Only societies small enough to change rapidly will have a chance to resist.

    This is Tasmania’s time, should its people want to step forward and claim it.

    A glimpse of optimism is that people like Chris Sharples are willing to communicate the message. I wonder how many will listen?

  39. Stephan

    July 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    There are cold hard facts we can’t ignore.

    Yet we do our damndest to do so.

    The economic paradigm of growth and debt means that we need to expand exponentially to maintain the same standard of living no matter what.

    And yet – where are we? On a tiny ball of dirt landlocked with limited space to expand in to. We pollute and destroy that which would provide us with the means to live at least well. But, are we doing anything serious about that limitation?

    When I was about eight I was first introduced to the concept of a pyramid scheme. It’s all about getting in at the beginning and staying at the pinnacle as the pyramid builds underneath you.

    The problem with all pyramid schemes is that they eventually collapse. And as I grew older I saw our civilisation is the ultimate pyramid scheme. Ours being just the latest in a long, long chain.

  40. phill Parsons

    July 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Can it get worse is the question asked in the film A Bridge Too Far. The answer was Oh yes, much worse” said the character as the town of Arnhem was shown as being reduced to rubble.

    The old parties in Australia just don’t get it. Dangerous schemes to put off low cost change to are resulting in costly damage to the natural fabric that supports all life and to built infrastructure.

    The fossil fuel industry takes a radical position threatening all life with runaway climate change in the very short term interest of profit. The financial industry shows glimmers of awakening but still supports the cause of its own collapse unless the path is changed.

    Humans have no experience upon which to base their beliefs and underpin their decision making. Many sit mesmerized by their past, their current positions and the worry about their financial future.

    Be assured that as of today the drivers of climate instability and catastrophic events will be at least twice as powerful even if we stopped all CO2 emissions across the planet today. That is built in by the life of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    What can you do. Well if you can vote Green and support their roadmap for the transition of Australian energy production. It will mean a little in terms of physical outcome but an unbelievable amount in terms of impact on other countries actions.

    Setting a clear example for the global community is important right now. Failure to do so will not mean the end but if you think things are worse now be assured they will get much worse the longer we delay action.

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