Discuss: Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist
For those in denial, the most obvious things are the most difficult to see.
I kept putting off reading this article, maybe because I knew what it said and wasn’t quite ready to hear it. Now that I have read it I realize that the author has put into words to my own growing feelings of despair over what “environmentalism” has turned out to be. It really is just “save the Earth for the humans” and I feel that my disillusion with it is nearly total.
Scientists like David Owens have good work to do that is best accomplished by being uncompromisingly honest in the reporting of their research as well as by being unambiguously objective and forthcoming in reporting their findings with regard to the research of others. When honesty and effectiveness are viewed in opposition to one another, honesty must prevail over effectiveness in science. Finding a balance between them is not sufficient. Sacrificing honesty in order to maintain professional effectiveness is inadequate.
With regard to the science of human population dynamics, intellectual honesty appears not to have prevailed over professional effectiveness. That convenient rationalizations in support of effectiveness have been deployed by too many experts who have refused to be fully honest and open about such a vital matter of concern, seem somehow not right. Science is not compatible either with less than the ‘whole truth’, according the lights and best available empirical data we possess, or with the collective avoidance by professionals of research regarding what could be real. Science is an expression of truth, is it not? There can be no room for compromise between honesty and effectiveness where science is concerned.
It appears that we have a lot work to do…..fast. Endless growth of the immense ‘artificial reality’ will end either as a function of intelligent human thought, the best available science and morally courageous action or else the colossal artificial reality (aka economic colossus, aka global political economy) will somehow expand until it implodes because an endlessly growing, gigantic global economy in a finite world like the one we inhabit cannot be sustained much longer on a planet of the size, composition and frangible ecology of Earth. To put this situation in another way, if we keep up our reckless overconsuming, relentless overproducing and unbridled overpopulation activities, then a point in human history will be reached when some unimaginable sort of cataclysm can be expected to occur. Allow me to deploy words from A. Schweitzer. We need a new ethics based upon “reverence for life”. To revere an ethical system based upon idea that ‘greed is good’, the idea we see governing and dominating so much human activity on our watch, needs to be appropriately criminalized rather than ubiquitously legitimized, socially sanctioned and made lawful.
If faith in the goodness of science is ever lost, then I fear the future of children everywhere, life as we know it, and Earth as a fit place for habitation by coming generations, that we think we are preserving and protecting in our time, could be ruined utterly. Somehow the honesty of science must come to prevail over professional effectiveness and the pernicious silence of too many of ‘the brightest and the best’ on one hand and the specious, intellectually dishonest, deceitful, cascading, ideologically-driven chatter of clever ‘talking heads’, overly educated sycophants or other minions in the mainstream media who selfishly serve the primary interests of self dealing masters of the universe among us on the other.
There is nothing ever insignificant to be gained from science and nothing trivial about truth. This is especially so with regard to science that indicates: human population numbers are a function of food availability (not, definitely not, the other way around) and human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species. From my perspective, the science tells us something vital about ourselves, our distinctly human creatureliness and our ‘placement’ as the top ranking creature among the living beings on Earth. For all the miraculous and occasionally unique attributes of the human species, the research shows us that the human species is not, definitely not, most adequately or accurately placed “a little lower than angels” in the order of living things. Although such an attractively elevated and self-aggrandizing position for the human species sets human beings apart from other species, this view appears to be a widely shared, consensually validated and culturally-prescribed illusion. Rather human beings are assuredly situated within all that is living on Earth. Homo sapiens is an organism that is an integral part of the natural world, not apart from it. We see science once again ‘cutting’ from under us ‘the pedestal’ upon which we believe stand as we oversee, steward and dominate life on Earth.
Thanks for your comments Steve S. You are right on target as usual.
If anyone in the Orion community is attending the Population Under Pressure conference in London this week, please ask someone, any expert at all, to comment on the ‘global predicament’ posed humanity on our watch by the unbridled growth worldwide of distinctly human overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities we can see overspreading the surface of Earth. What Andy Revkin describes as “humanity’s growth spurt” appears to minimize, even trivialize, a grave situation that is becoming harder and harder to acknowledge, address and overcome because human global overgrowth activities are overwhelming the finite physical resources and frangible ecology of the celestial orb we call our planetary home. The colossal presence of humankind on Earth in our time is much more formidable and fearsome than some sort of adolescent growth spurt. To describe the explosion of absolute global population numbers in such terms is jejeune and represents a subtle form of denial of what primarily threatens future human well being and environmental health.
Dear Mike k,
Many thanks for all you are doing…