Recently, on a Sustainable Population Australia forum, I was debating the fact that reducing population was no silver bullet to our predicaments, we needed to also reduce our consumption of everything. As I am wont to do, I rattled their cages repeatedly, pointing out all the usual stuff discussed on this humble blog. I neither doubt nor misunderstand why people get sick of me pointing out that ‘techno solutions’ are no solutions at all. It did take me fifteen years to learn why this was so, mourn the situation, come to grips with it, then accept it and move on….. it is no easy task.
Eventually, I’m asked what would I do if I was in charge; what solutions would I implement. I hate telling people there are no solutions (there aren’t..), and as a result I usually spout off the only things I can think of, like canceling debts and living more simply, after which I am normally dismissed as nutcase wearing a hairshirt and living in a cave.
The other day, however, my oversimplified list of ‘solutions’ was sarcastically described as my Great Leap Forward. This reference of course was an attempt to ridicule my ideas as nothing better than the total disaster Mao Zedong inflicted on China from 1958 to 1961. I was far too young to understand what was going on at the time, but the sarcasm wasn’t wasted on me, I have since read about the economic and social campaign by the Chinese Communist Party resulting in 18 million to 45 million deaths……
I was of course, a bit miffed, but that comment resulted in me coming up with the title for this entry, the Great Leap Sideways.
It never ceases to amaze me that people smart enough to recognise we are overpopulated, seem unable to understand limits to other growth. They all appear to believe that if we only reduce our numbers, we can have our cake and eat it too, a world of gadgets all powered by green energy….
It’s easy for me to offer ‘non solutions’ were I in charge of the world, because I never will be (thank goodness…) And I hate to tell the Sustainable Population Australia members, but Mao’s 18 to 45 million deaths is a picnic in the park compared to what faces the 7.5 billion and growing population about to come face to face with reality. The death of billions obviously appears monumental, because never before have we had so many people on the planet who will all die, one day, no matter what. Get over it….. one day, Peak Deaths will arrive too.
As I see it today, we face the perfect storm of, in likely order they will start affecting us, economic collapse, resource and food unavailability, and catastrophic climate change.
I recently heard on the radio some scientist, whose name I unfortunately did not catch while driving, that the era of limiting emissions is over, what needs to happen now is that we have to remove CO2 from the air, and fast…. how this was meant to happen, he did not say. probably because it’s nigh impossible, especially when considering the gargantuan scale it needs to happen on.
Just the other day, another ‘we’re saved’ meme turned up, scientists apparently managed to turn CO2 into rock in Iceland. The amount of energy required was of course not mentioned, and then it occurred to me that in Iceland, there’s so much sustainable geothermal energy available it’s probably the only place in the world where this would be possible to achieve… but then read further and you can read “The Iceland project has already been increased in scale to bury 10,000 tonnes of CO2 a year”. Wow. another journalist who does not understand orders of magnitude….. because we would need to build seven million such plants just to keep up with emissions, let alone reduce CO2 concentrations down from 400ppm to 350. Just think of what doing this would do to the already plummeting ERoEI of fossil fuels!
That’s the problem of course. No one either understands or wants to admit just how big a hole we have dug ourselves into. Just the other day I was accused by a ‘friend’ of not doing my bit because I wasn’t helping the Greens’ campaign in the current electoral farce. Been there, done that, I know when I’m wasting my time. IF, and it’s a huge if of course, the Greens could win the election, I may consider helping, but that simply won’t happen. And even if they did win, all they’d want to do is plaster more greenhouse emitting PVs and turbines all over the countryside, a non solution.
As I keep reiterating ad nauseam, only a major economic catastrophe can save us now. It’s even too late for the Great Leap Sideways…..
In case you missed it, the simplicity institute has released its latest doco. It’s cute, but it will not convince anyone but the diehard that this is the way to change…..