If ever there was an argument for transformation to a steady state economy from a “growth” economy it’s Suzuki’s presentation on “exponential growth” see below. Suzuki’s abstract analysis of population growth however, doesn’t match with what really happened, in 1965, when “exponential growth” suddenly slowed. We should not be surprised. The same thing happens to other species, which wax and wane, depending on all sorts of conditions, most of which we don’t understand. Systems theory, seeing the biosphere as a complex interconnected whole is, I sense, still in its infancy.
December 28, 2013
On Facebook, a friend posted a link this morning to a much-watched David Suzuki riff on exponential growth, bacterial reproduction and humanity’s 59th minute:
That led me to sift for other video content on this issue of meshing human development and planetary limits, which I’ve explored here of course more than a few times.
I found “Malthus Miffed: Are People the Problem, the Solution, or Both? An Introduction to Demography and Populations Study Through an Examination of the World’s Population”:
The lecture, part of an online course from The Floating University, is a marvelous deeper dive on this question from my longtime source on all things demographic, Joel Cohen of Rockefeller and Columbia universities. (There’s a transcript.)
A.K. Joel’s is a very interesting presentation. I read the transcript. Here’s an Excerpt from his Summation:
When you walk away from this conversation, I hope that you’ll remember that population interacts with economics, the environment and culture so that you immunize yourself against people who will try to sell you an overly simple bill of goods. And there are a lot of people. There are people who say, “Demography is destiny,” and all we have to do is get a contraceptive in every pot and we’ll solve the world’s problems. That’s wrong.
And there are people who say all we have to do is get the market right. Let the market take care of all the prices. In my view, that is equally wrong and much more dangerous. There are people who say, “It’s only a matter of law and getting the laws right.” Yeah, but it’s also a matter of technology and contraception and economics. And there are people who say, “Forget about the people, let’s just save the environment.” I don’t believe that because I’m a human being and I value other human beings. We’ve got to get all of these things working together and the environment can be on the side of human well being because poor rural people depend directly on the environment for their sustenance. If they want to have a sustainable sustenance, they have to have a sustainable environment.
Demography makes it possible to imagine and to re-imagine the future.
A.K. Of course, I was looking for the word “permaculture” as I read through the transcript. Not there. But the idea of supporting small farmers is. On the other hand, in some ways this presentation reminds me of Agenda 21, with its assumption of big, top-down centralized solutions, rather than bottom-up, grassroots community networked solutions.
The end of a year is a good time to explore big ideas. I encourage you to invest 43 of the remaining minutes of 2013 with Cohen. If you’re pressed for time, dip in for a minute or two.