Sunday, September 13, 2009

Living in the “Post Expansion Age”

Man’s ability to predict outcomes, especially for the economy, the weather or environmental change, has been seriously brought into question. Studies predicting one effect are often followed by other studies predicting almost the opposite. We have to step back and look at the source of studies for potential bias, the quality of them, the numbers on each side of the issue, the evolution of opinions, and use our own minds. Climate change is now accepted by most researchers, the only question is how fast is it happening and how far it will go. Successive studies generally suggest faster rates of change. Greenhouse gasses are almost universally accepted as to contributing to climate change, only the extent of their effect is disputed. The activities on mankind are a major contributor to greenhouse gases. The world population is growing fast and will continue to without a major natural disaster, war or lethal pandemic. The planet is not growing! Simple logic tells us that at some point we will reach the limits of our earth and the “Post Expansion Age” will begin.

There is some dispute as to when this age will start. Some say we are already there, some say it will not happen this century, but it most certainly will happen. Our planet has gone through many temperature cycles. At first, temperatures were too hot for water to exist as a liquid. At one time, all land was covered by ice. Since then their have been many swings back and forth, trending over time to be less severe. Presently we are in the warming phase of the cycle. Mankind is giving this swing a strong push, driving this cycle far further and much faster than it would have gone. We are now getting a taste of what is to come in our recent severe and unpredictable weather conditions. Changes are too fast for many life forms to adapt or migrate to suitable climates.

However the dominant issue on peoples’ minds is the economy. Prevailing opinion is that we cannot have a healthy economy without growth or expansion. Our monetary system demands it. Simple logic tells us that eventually we will have to find a way. Continuously increasing consumption of resources can only lead to exceeding the planet’s environmental capacity. If we go too far before we realize it, we may have to quickly change to a shrinking economy. Where this tipping point occurs is hotly debated. Some opinions are that we have already past it.

Regardless where this limit is there are some measures we can take to give us more time to learn how to solve our problems. Obviously reduce, reuse, recycle, and restore is a start. The “green economy” which actually reduces resource consumption will buy us some time. We may have to focus on our needs more than or wants. Adjusting to activities that do not consume a lot of resources for enjoyment and fulfillment may eventually be necessary. Eventually we will have to find a way to deal with the growth of our population.

Solving these problems may seam insurmountable, but I have faith in mankind’s ingenuity to accomplish this. The sooner we get started the easier it will be and the less human suffering will result. We will have to find a way to do the impossible so that we do not have to consider the unthinkable.

Fred Twilley