Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sustainability is inevitable

I post here a response I gave in a recent discussion about peak oil regarding my position on sustainability and debunking the notion that a mass dieoff of billions of people is inevitable.

Ludi from the peak oil community asks:

Omnitir, can you explain how the transition to sustainability is "inevitable"? I'm not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean it is inevitable we will transition to sustainability before a major die-off?

Yes, I believe so.

Our capabilities of adapting are far more advanced then I suspect many people acknowledge. It comes down to the sometimes overlooked benefits of greater complexity. With today’s unprecedented levels of complexity we have the ability to do what we have always done on a much larger scale, far more quickly, and far more effectively.

What we have always done is adapt. Our species has the unique ability to understand a situation, then create virtual scenarios to experiment and test hypothesis (early this was done in the mind, then in more complex ways with new tools such as writing and mathematics etc., and now in exceedingly complex ways with highly advanced tools such as massive parallel computer networking etc., in each case resulting in ever more effective solutions), and finally we put these solutions into action.

I believe that we already are making a gradual but definite transition towards sustainability, and that this transition is the inevitable result of human progress. We understand the situation far better then ever before, and more and more people are becoming aware of the need for change. We are using hugely more advanced tools to both understand the problem and to calculate and develop various solutions, which give ever more effective results. And the last stage is implementing these solutions, which contrary to doomer positions is something that is occurring in earnest (just not instantaneously).

Thanks to our greater understanding of the problems, a greater number of bodies are striving for solutions. This phenomenon will gain impressive momentum the more the truth of unsustainability is revealed to the world, and the better it is understood.

Long before a great dieoff occurs, to coin a phrase, the ‘symptoms of the greater problem’, will manifest themselves in greater number, causing an increasing amount of effort towards sustainability. There will indeed be a breaking point, but not one in which civilization collapses around us, rather one where the movement for sustainability gains critical mass and can no longer be resisted. Democracy, capitalism, the free market and increasing complexity will then display their inherent benefits as the push towards sustainability overwhelms current paradigms and takes priority in a world where oil is soon to peak. The dieoff will be adverted.

But don’t rest easy guys, there’s still a lot of work to do ;)

15 Comments:

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But we didn't understand the situation, and we didn't look to the future and and test solutions... and that is the point.

We didn't prevent overshoot.

We didn't limit our numbers.

We had our chance 150 years ago to prevent overshoot.

Now we have no choice but to suffer the consequences.

If you say it is not too late, then I ask you how you would reduce the population, knowing that birth control alone won't do it, due to population demographics.

How would you increase the death rate, as reducing the death rate is what got us here?

Or, how will you massively increase the carrying capacity while reducing climate change and at the same time find a new source of water, topsoil, biodiversity, and arable land? Basically a new environment.

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger Omnitir said...

Strange that you say “didn’t” – past tense, and initially focus on a smaller population as the solution. But then you hit the key; increasing carrying capacity.

Why is it that so many people seem to take it as a given that the carrying capacity is at some fixed level of which we have exceeded? All throughout human history we have pushed at the limits of carrying capacity, only to innovate our way out of overshoot, and this is what we continue to do today, and will continue to do so into the future.

We will increase our carrying capacity while controlling the environment in ever more sophisticated ways in the same way we have always done; through scientific and technological innovation. For every problem there is a solution, and the point this post is making is that the solutions (resulting in true sustainability) are the inevitable results of progress.

 
At 3:38 AM, Blogger al fin said...

A lot of people are by nature pessimists. By living under a heavy curtain of doom, they free themselves from the need to solve problems. What difference would it make? The world will only end tomorrow.

I am not certain of the neurobiological implications for these people. Perhaps the high sales of Prozac and other mood stabilizers suggests a part of the price to pay for chronic ideologically mandated pessimism.

 
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