SEF News-Views Digest No. 198 (1-31-18)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
CO2The one topic most people tend to ignore, including leaders of major environmental organizations, is the role of human population growth in driving all converging ecological, social, and economic crises. Some of us understand this dynamic relationship, and we also agree that humane solutions are available to ameliorate future crises—but only if the topic is opened to public discussion. The good news it that some signs of discussing this issue have appeared over the past year, for example, with NPR’s broadcast on Sept. 22, 2016: Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?
We who propose reducing our increasing numbers to a sustainable level are advocates for voluntary humane solutions, nothing that’s draconian. All it would take to start reducing population is to provide widespread information, support family planning, and create positive incentives. Yet, when the concept of reducing population comes up, some misunderstanding people will immediately object, citing the dangers of “population control”. Well, if we don’t do something, and soon, there will be plenty of dangers for the world’s future citizens, and that’s for certain.
One argument, which seems to be based solely on a short-to-medium-term vision of a future decade or so, is concerned with the potential negative economic impacts society may experience due to not having sufficient numbers of young workers to support aging, non-working populations. Historically, this type of circuitous perspective has led to boom-and-bust population bubbles. When the world’s population was considerably smaller, this constant-growth pattern was survivable, but no longer—if we wish to survive a future dominated by ecological crises.
The absolute reality is that there are limits to growth in a finite world, period. Given a potential future of severe ecological challenges, it may be necessary for a generation or two to endure some austere belt tightening, but if we’re serious about averting a collapse of civilization, what alternative do we have? Some experts argue for creating a steady-state population worldwide, in tandem with forming a steady-state economy. As a semi-sustainability expert, I agree.
World Population Balance (WPB), a local organization dedicated to promoting a sustainable world population, is undertaking a new promotional initiative. Thirteen WPB members (see photo above) met recently to create a resolution designed to aid political parties and environmental groups in supporting the reality that true sustainability requires a sustainable population. Moreover, interested readers, like you, can help spread the resolution by sharing it with others, including local political leaders.
For instance, if you attend party caucuses in the U.S., this resolution can help get the message of sustainable population into the political conversation. Also, if you are involved with an environmental group, you might consider submitting the resolution as written, or adapt the language to fit your group’s platform. Please read the WPB resolution, and if you feel like you can promote it, please do, for the sake of humanity and the Earth. Thanks!
World Population Balance Sustainable Population Resolution
Whereas climate change is the most egregious sign that we are currently living unsustainably and imperiling the future, and
Whereas the Lund University Study quantitatively concludes having one fewer child per family in developed countries reduces the CO2 equivalent of more than 10 times the combined CO2 reduction of three high-impact actions2 and
Whereas Global Footprint data indicate a drastic reduction in both population and consumption is required in the United States for us to live sustainably3 and
Whereas population reduction through lower birthrates is more humane than population reduction through increased misery and death rates,
Be it resolved that the _____________ Party (organization), in addressing climate change, will advocate for voluntary small families as an integral part of its response.
1 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, Second Notice published November 13, 2017.
High-impact actions for reducing your carbon footprint in developed countries:
- having one fewer child (58.6 metric tons CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) per year)
- living car-free (2.4 tCO2e per year)
- avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e per year for every round trip trans-Atlantic flight)
- eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e per year).
3 Global Footprint Network data indicate that a sustainable US population, living at a European standard of living (2/3 of the current American standard) would be 150 million people.
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> Peak Prosperity: The Pie Is Shrinking So Much The 99% Are Beginning To Starve (Charles Hugh Smith). Social movements are characterized by profound conflict because the beneficiaries of the power asymmetry resist the demands by the masses for a fairer share of the power and privileges, leading those who’ve held the short end of the stick grow tired of the asymmetry and refuse to back down. The global economy tends to depreciate labor and increase the gains of the top few in a “winner take most” allocation. In this new era of a steadily shrinking pie, the sources of inequality and related social problems have also shifted. As a result, the social movements that were effective in the past are no longer effective today.
> Resilience: Why The Resistance Can’t Win Without Vision (George Lakey). Will reactivity to Trump continue among activists, or are we ready to channel our passion into more focused movement building for change? Movements are successful when they fight for something. Like athletes who improve when they visualize a higher jump or more graceful dive, movements also improve their game by imagining a better world, one with alternatives to the current systems of injustice. In what may still be a vision-averse culture, a well-crafted vision offers a connection point for unity, an attractive means of outreach, and a source of positive energy in a degraded political environment.
> Medium: Some Thoughts On Spirituality And Revolution (Caitlin Johnstone). Growing research shows that our behavior is far more likely to be determined by unconscious mental habits than by the process of conscious thinking. Media propaganda narratives are constantly being used by the elites who control governments to manufacture the consent of the masses and convince the public that it is in their best interest to obey and play along. Freeing human consciousness from the clutches of mass media propaganda requires moving in the exact opposite direction of extinction and into the health, harmony and peace that we all know deep down we are capable of creating.
> Resilience: Our Broken Mental Models Are At The Root Of Global Systemic Crises (Ugo Bardi). Most of us try to fit new facts into established mental models, only occasionally testing our original assumptions, if ever. Can anyone’s mental models cope with the increasing complexities and myriad interconnections of our globalized economic, political and social system? Complex social, political, and economic systems share one key characteristic: They will react to new inputs in ways that almost always surprise us, often generating results opposite to those intended. “Make America Great Again” is the literal poster child for a mental model lacking in humility.
> Think Progress: American Democracy Is Failing. The Courts Are Finally Starting To Notice. (Ian Millhiser). In the last ten years in American democracy, a combination of factors—the filibuster, the way we draw legislative districts, Senate mala-apportionment, and the Electoral College—converged to rob American voters of a meaningful ability to choose their own leaders. The government of the United States no longer derives its powers from the consent of the governed. The courts appear to be awakening to the problem of gerrymandering—and are beginning to do something about it. [See also: The Fight For Democracy]
> Resource Insights: The Energy Of Bitcoin, The Information Economy And The (Possible) Decentralization Of The World (Kurt Cobb). There are more than 1,000 digital coins other than Bitcoin, and altogether they use lots of energy. The physical economy isn’t disappearing. It is merely being exploited more completely using digital information. One aspect of the blockchain technology behind the explosion in digital currencies could be promising. This technology offers a possible path for decentralizing banking and finance and myriad other Internet-related services we’ve come to rely on from big corporations.
> New York Times: Doomsday Clock Moves Closer To Midnight, Signaling Concern (Jonah Engel Bromwich). On Thursday, the group of scientists (representing the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) who orchestrate the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic instrument informing the public when the earth is facing imminent disaster, moved its minute hand from three to two and a half minutes before the final hour. It was the closest the clock had been to midnight since 1953, the year after the United States and the Soviet Union conducted competing tests of the hydrogen bomb. They expressed concern about the world situation and hope to create more awareness and action.
> BBC: Cape Town Water Crisis: Residents Urged To Switch Off Toilets (Staff). A severe drought in the South African city of Cape Town has forced the city’s municipality to limit consumption to 50 litres (11 gallons) per person per day. Officials are urging people to switch off their toilet cisterns and limit flushing to conserve water. The head of the provincial government said if the taps ran dry it would be “the disaster above all disasters”. Cape Town, a popular tourist destination, has been hit by its worst drought in a century, along with much of southern Africa, with very low rainfall for the past three years. [See also: In Less Than 3 Months, A Major International City Will Likely Run Out Of Water]
> Common Dreams: World’s Oceans Last Year Hit Hottest Temperatures Ever Recorded… ‘By Far’ (Jessica Corbett). A new analysis by Chinese researchers and published in a peer-reviewed journal on Friday found that 2017 was the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans, renewing concerns among those in the scientific community about the man-made climate crisis. “The long-term warming trend driven by human activities continued unabated,” the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, wrote (pdf) in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
> Ensia: Disasters Are Destroying Places We Hold Dear. How Should We Respond? (Stephen Miller). With smoke still choking its skies, an Oregon community plunged into a debate over how it should respond to this profound loss: try to reconstruct the past, or accept a new reality? Inhabitants of a dynamic world have grappled with this question for eons, but today and in a future where climate change is quickly destabilizing our environments, the changes are becoming more frequent and more consequential. More than ever, policy-makers and land managers need to make tough choices about humankind’s role in managing the natural world.
> Green Tech Media: Trump Administration Issues 30% Solar Panel Import Tariff (Julia Pyper). according to the U.S. Trade Representative, China’s industrial planning “has included a focus on increasing Chinese capacity and production of solar cells and modules, using state incentives, subsidies, and tariffs to dominate the global supply chain.” In the near term, President Trump’s decision will cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year, including many in manufacturing. It’s also expected to trigger the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments.
> Huffpost: Wind To Blow Past Hydropower As Top Clean Electricity Source In Major Milestone (The sector is expected to produce 6.4 percent of utility-scale electricity in 2018, and 6.9 percent in 2019, propelled by a construction boom of new turbines across the country. The news marks a new milestone in wind’s steady rise. Wind energy usurped hydropower’s generating capacity for the first time in February 2017 as turbine installations tripled from 2008. The United States is projected to gain 37 gigawatts of new wind capacity between 2017 and 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
> Common Dreams: Bypassing Major Networks, Over A Million Tune In For Sanders ‘Medicare For All’ Town Hall (Julia Conley). Speaking with multiple panels featuring single-payer healthcare advocates and experts—including Dr. Don Berwick, who oversaw Medicare and Medicaid under President Barack Obama—Sanders moderated a nearly two-hour discussion about the failures of the current U.S. healthcare system and how its costs and outcomes compare to those in countries with universal healthcare. When Sanders asked Berwick whether there is any legitimate economic reason not to expand Medicare to all Americans, he replied, “No, there’s no reason, It’s just will.”
> Discover: The Clock Is Ticking On Superbugs (Linda Marsa). For years, U.S. public health officials have watched nervously as drug-resistant superbugs marched around the world, killing hundreds of thousands of people. When an elderly Nevada woman died in January of a bacterial infection that defied even the biggest guns in the infection-fighting arsenal, many U.S. experts sounded the alarm: Time is running out to stop these deadly pathogens. Already, superbugs claim 23,000 American lives every year, and over the past eight years, the number of hospitalized children who are resistant to antibiotics has increased sevenfold. Globally, more than 700,000 die annually from drug-resistant infections.
> OXFAM: Richest 1 Percent Bagged 82 Percent Of Wealth Created Last Year – Poorest Half Of Humanity Got Nothing (Anna Ratcliff). The report ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ is being launched as political and business elites gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Is recommending: 1) Limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage; 2) Eliminate the gender pay gap and protect the rights of women workers; and 3) Ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on public services such as healthcare and education.
> Brisbane Times: ‘Perfect Storm’: Global Financial System Showing Danger Signs, Says Senior OECD Economist (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard). The world financial system is as dangerously stretched today as it was at the peak of the last bubble but this time the authorities are caught in a “policy trap” with few defenses left, a veteran central banker has warned. Nine years of emergency money has had a string of perverse effects and lured emerging markets into debt dependency, without addressing the structural causes of the global disorder. Disturbing evidence of credit degradation is emerging almost daily.
> Strong Towns: Why Walkable Streets are More Economically Productive (Rachel Quednau). Support for walkable communities is often based on pedestrian safety, health (exercise), attractiveness, and environmental reasons. But there’s also an argument based on pure dollars and cents—one that should convince people with a myriad of values and political leanings that people-oriented places must be a priority if we want our communities to be economically prosperous. Data unequivocally show that people-oriented streets are more economically productive than auto-oriented streets.
> Transition Network: The Value Of Values In Talking Climate (And Not Mathematical Ones) (Sam Allen). Focusing on the science of climate change may well be counter-productive when trying to begin inclusive conversations that bridge different political perspectives. In this post, I explore the necessity of re-welcoming emotions and values into our conversations. And most importantly: values and emotions are what count in decision-making. Some useful sources: The Debunking Handbook, Communicating the Science of Climate Change, and Climate Literacy.
> Resilience: Reimagine, Don’t Seize, The Means Of Production (Ann Marie Utratel, Stacco Troncosco). One of the most difficult systems to reimagine is global manufacturing. A movement combining digital and physical production points toward producing within our communities, democratically and with respect for nature and its carrying capacity. Common-based peer production (CBPP) supports much of our online life. A design is created using the digital commons of knowledge, software and design, and then produced using local manufacturing and automation technologies, such as WikiHouse, OpenBionics, Farm Hack, and Habibi.Works.
> Grist: Seeing Red On Climate (Zoya Teirstein). There’s a small but growing alliance of concerned conservatives who want to reclaim climate change as a nonpartisan issue. Since 2011, Todd Tanner has harnessed his prominent position in Montana’s hunting and fishing communities to get people engaged. After wildfires incinerated forests and droughts desiccated rivers in Big Sky Country this year, agitated sportsmen and women have become easier to find. Tanner’s nonprofit, Conservation Hawks, is part of a coalition of grassroots organizations trying to pull conservatives into the conversation about rising temperatures. Evangelical Christians and far-right radicals are calling themselves the “eco-right.”
> Common Dreams: Women Are Universalizing (Charles Derber). The problems of women, people of color, workers, and immigrants are all intertwined, all ruled by the same tiny concentration of wealthy people who run our militarized corporate system for their own benefit. The 2018 Women’s March may be igniting a new politics of solidarity and a more robust phase of “universalizing resistance.” This is anti-systemic politics that sees the intertwined or “intersectional” nature of power and fights for a new system of mutuality and universal rights. Opinion polls have long shown that women are more supportive of social welfare and solidarity, one reason why feminist movements may universalize.
> Yes! Magazine: No Price Tags: These Neighbors Built Their Own Economy Without Money (Araz Hachadourian). Time-banking is a model for trading skills, goods, and labor instead of money—a sort of barter system where members “deposit” hours doing things like teaching, cooking, or repairing things, and “withdraw” hours of other members’ services. It’s been around in the U.S. since the 1980s, and there are close to 500 such banks across the country today. The Cowry Collective has 236 members, and more than 2,000 cowries have been exchanged, a way of embracing economics that creates solidarity.
> VOX: Mexico And Hungary Tried Junk Food Taxes — And They Seem To Be Working (Julia Belluz). According to their review of the scientific literature on junk food tax bills and laws, a federal tax on unhealthy foods would be both legally and administratively feasible in the US. Instead of a sales tax that would show up at the point of purchase, the researchers argue for an excise tax on junk food manufacturers. That should increase the shelf price of junk foods and beverages, and deter consumers from bringing unhealthy food choices to the checkout counter in the first place.
> Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. Extensive listings of Minnesota news, events, and projects: http://www.afors.org/.
> Citizen’s Climate Lobby: Regular Meetings And Events (www.citizensclimatelobby-mn.org); Meetings in 18 MN locations on the 2nd Saturday of each month to focus on bi-partisan Carbon Fee and Dividend Legislation; 66 members of the US House on the Climate Solutions Caucus. 9th Annual Citizens’ Climate International Conference and Lobby Day, June 10-12; Registration now open here.
> MN Department of Health: Climate and Health 101 Webinar, as posted on our webpage with information (registration links, copies of the PPT deck and webinar recording). See: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/climatechange/communication.html
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/ (search by month)
> MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/campaigns-projects/
> U of MN Institute On The Environment: Frontiers In The Environment Seminars, Feb. 23; Mar. 8, 23; April 5, 20; 12:00-12:45 p.m., varied locations; both live and recorded; For details, see: http://environment.umn.edu/frontiers/. For magazine news, see: ENSIA.COM.
> Resilience: Think Resilience – Preparing For The Rest Of The 21st Century. This course, consisting of 22 video lectures by Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, totaling about 4 hours), may be taken at your own leisure ($20). View the video.
> Conversation Earth: Conversation Earth–Exploring Our Place on the Planet (Dave Gardner, Interviewer). This Radio Series & Podcast provides surprising perspectives from leading thinkers on the most important issues of our time.
> WTS: Weathering The Storm, Michael Conley, Founder-Speaker-Author, Seminars & Presentations; Several offerings: News Flash; Newsletter; Information Services; OLLI Course Hand-outs; Best Practices; Buy The Book (Lethal Trajectories)
> Population Growth: Population Clock – Poodwaddle World Clock. Watch the population increase minute by minute.
> Bloomberg News: Bloomberg Carbon Clock. A real-time estimate of the global monthly atmospheric CO2 level.
> US Debt Clock: U.S. National Debt Clock: Real Time. Every aspect of the economy is documented.
> Happy Planet Index. The HPI Index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes, and ecological footprint. America limps in at a thoroughly miserable 108th. About the HPI