Letter to a young idealist

R.,

A few more thoughts along the same lines I talked about previously.

All of humanity’s history has been a series of incremental advances along multiple paths; business, social organization, military, agriculture, technological, etc. In all of this, the thought has primarily been to advance, empower and grow.

Now, for the first time in humanity’s history, we have filled the planet and have begun to hit various unyielding limits; water, food, oil, pollution, as well as limits having to do with how much impact we can have on the biosphere without causing huge shifts in the demographics of various species and even causing their extinctions.

It is clear, if humanity wants to continue to live indefinitely on this planet, that we are going to have to shift from a growth and advance strategy in all we do to one predicated on establishing a steady-state and sustainable balance with the biosphere around us.

We cannot use renewable resources faster than they can regenerate. We cannot occupy more of the planet’s surface than is consistent with allowing the rest of the planet’s biology to exist and flourish. These both imply that our population has to come down to some sustainable number and be held there. We have to come up with ways to govern ourselves that are consistent with establishing and maintaining these essential balances. Nation against nation, system against system is not compatible with long term survival. The ultimate goal and purpose of government in an enlightened world should be to secure all of our futures (we and all the rest of the planet’s biology) and maintain the balance.

We could, if we cut our population to sustainable levels and learned to live within a sustainable footprint on this planet, exist here for tens of thousands of years and maintain a decent quality of life for all those who are alive at any specific point in time. We do not have to give up comfort or technology – we just have to dial our impact on the planet back to sustainable levels and stay with in those levels.

Anything that the Gates Foundation or any other forward looking organization works on that does not include long term goals like these is likely in the big picture to just be a shuffling of our problems from one place to the other rather than a real indefinite-term planet-wide solution to how our species is going to solve the problem of learning to live here without fouling our nest for ourselves and all the other species that depend on this planet’s biosphere.

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