This is the copy of an email sent to a member of an ecol-econ-discussion list in 1996From LUBBERS@matai.vuw.ac.nzWed Aug 7 11:20:56 1996 Date: Mon, 8 JUL 1996 20:30:14 +0000 From: LUBBERS@matai.vuw.ac.nz To: wilsoda1 Cc: Helmut.Lubbers@vuw.ac.nz Subject: Re: APOCALYPSE
Sustainability is amorphous as long as one does not know the hard facts. Most people avoid them. It's too threatening: during our written history alone we have lived more or less sustainably - 4000 B.C. till let's say 1000 A.D., that makes 200 generations. Present outlook: one to four generations, then collapse, full stop. Evaluation based on present knowledge of resources and consumptive trends. Some trends cannot be reversed, like climate change. Neither ethics nor morality interests me in view of the environmental threats. Just realities, continuing degradation all around us, mostly not directly visible from where I (and you?) live, but brought into my living room by the media. Changing the frame of reference is a cop-out.
Sorry, I know. I start getting more and more impatient (part of my character). Photovoltaic power is NOT almost competitive. Students in labs work on future solutions, whilst at the same time global competition and free trade find ever cheaper places for production with no regard for the environment. The environmental destruction in the newly industrialising countries is well-known. The environment is dying, the people are dying. A local businessman told me he has sheepskin cuttings from NZ tanneries, sown together in China and the patched rugs sold in NZ, thereby reducing retail price by 33 percent. He's been to China himself. Says, there are factories there, who employ workers at 2 cents an hour. Local retail electricity here costs me 10 cents a kWh. Could let five Chinese workers generate power on a bike for an hour and get 1 kWh. That's reality, world-wide free trade brings it to us.
However, power is not the real problem. Before power runs out, we will suffocate in air pollution and be poisoned by 80000-over artificial chemicals, etc., etc. Yes, doomsaying, I know. So what? Is it better to HOPE for salvation than to WORK for sustainable life styles? Our so-called economic system is 200 years behind. It marched on the place for 200 years, when economists still counted with the Earth's seemingly endless resources. We are like addicts who do not want to give up the illusions that are so pleasurable.
Maybe you want to read the last line at the bottom first and then return to the writings I put in between your lines.
On Mon, 8 Jul 1996, WILSODA1 wrote:
> Dear Helmut, > In response to your posting of 7/3: The concept of sustainability is sufficiently amorphous, that genuinely well-meaning people could in good conscience, greatly disagree about the value and morality of economic growth. I believe that two kinds of problems exist with the concept of sustainability.
> 1. Sustainability is scale-sensitive in time and space. In other words, specific practices that are sustainable on one scale, might be unsustainable on another. Changing the frame of reference changes something from sustainable to non-sustainable.
> 2. In the time-frames of concern to many environmentalists (decades - centuries) many of the assumptions and parameters from which sustainability is assessed will change. For example, right now, photovoltaic power is almost competitive with conventional power delivery. There are grad students slaving away in the lab right now, trying to increase efficiency. Suddenly photovoltaic power will become competitive. All those non-sustainable electric things suddenly become sustainable. I could give many other examples, especially in the area of agriculture and byproduct utilization. In the popular environmental movement "sustainable" is a codeword for esthetically acceptable. In the Marxist wing of the environmental movement, it is a codeword for socialism. It can mean almost anything you want.
Our impact on the environment is 14 times (Friends of the Earth, Holland) to 80 times (USA) higher than sustainable. Your "codeword" interpretations are also cop-outs, sorry, approaching in your next lines the usual "green=red" equation. Well, chuckle, green, red, or black, we will all die together. Same Earth vessel, same future. The wealthy on the Titanic drowned like the coal shovelers 6 stories under deck. Chuckle.
Efficiency. The magic buzz-word. Only one measure of efficiency counts: Time is money. Thereby time equals environment. Since working more environmentally friendly (doing less damage to the environment, takes longer, uses more human physical effort, is less "efficient".
Resource efficiency starts with NOT using the resource at all, then as little as possible and with as little waste as possible. Means making a wooden chair that lasts centuries. Thence bad for business. Means cutting weeds by hand, bad for business, painfull for one's back, better for the environment, keeps people at work, the solution for the unemployment problem, AND for the pollution problem since the time needed for manual weeding can not be used for making TV sets or Minneapolis Formula one races. Our economists know nothing about real economy. They apply models that help exploiting the Earth.
> Do you really think that "our culture revolves around guilt"? I don't feel guilty, and I don't feel like anyone is trying to impose guilt on me, except maybe on the ecopsychology list server.
YES. I only write what I really believe. I am a realist. You know why they nailed Jesus to the cross? To take our guilt upon him. Etc etc. Jesus' example of obedience to the Lord is the best example for Christians to obey to all earthly representatives of the Lord.
> Why am I on the list? Good question. I made a committment to myself a couple years ago to try to connect with and understand the environmental movement.
Sounds good. I DO believe you.
> I had been increasingly irritated by stupid, shallow environmentalist literature, mainly in the sustainable ag area.
Who the heck is STUPID, shallow? We ALL believe what we believe. If you want some shallow environmentalist literature, surf the internet and find the International Chamber of Commerce http://www.ibnet.com. Read their growthist beliefs. Save the environment and grow. I've met these people at the 1995 Berlin Climate conference. Speaking about shallow and stupid. Maybe you should have given an example?
Sorry, Dale, I know I am raging. Had a terrible discussion with an economics's student from Holland, a real woodhead, reciting all the Chapter one text book credentials. Every two seconds putting words in my mouth that I did not say, dishonest debating.
> Along the way, I have become very interested in modernity, the meaning of science, and the evolution of culture. Also, I like to argue (especially with neomarxists). I believe that interesting and parasitic psychological undercurrents animate the environmental movement. These need to be unearthed before consensus with ordinary people will be possible.
My God. Reading this almost made me not replying to this mail at all. WHOSE parasitic undercurrents do what? "neomarxists"? Ever looked into marxism, a term Marx never used? Ever read Erich Fromm's "To have or to Be"?
Just got the last three months' The Economist out of the library. Could start quoting. I "do" Psychology since fourteen years (no I am not offended, I'm just so sad about all this ideology). But phhh , enough.
> I am not a leader, except maybe in seed technology.
I sat classes, seminars, many hours, 1992-1995 with Ciba-Geigy's "chief sustainable environmentalist". I DO like the man. But coming back from last years Luzern food conference he said the conference closed with a positive outlook: The world's food production would be able to cope with the food requirements for the world population of expected 10?, 12?, 14? billion in 25 years. Raised my finger: what have we won by that?, who has the advantage now, who wins over these 25 years? Have my children won when they are my age in 25 years? Has the Earth won? Has the emnvironment won? (The old-testamental paradigm: go and be fertile, multilpy numbers, grow. Chuckle chuckle. Do we ever learn? Limits to growth? Julian Simon says the Earth can carry 80 billion, St Gallen's Business school professor repeats: "Knowledge will bring salvation" There's no limit. AMEN) Says "Chief Sustainable Environmentalist": Mr. Lubbers, that's a matter of philosophy, one's an optimist or a pessimist." Replies Lubbers: But I'm a realist.
> About disaster, I think futurology is mostly futile, but things could get really interesting in about ten generations if human genetic components are marketed.
Well, good luck. If a doctor dares to touch my dead body for spare parts, I'll kill him.
Ever thought about the enormous impact on the environment because of modern surgical medicine to save ONE life? The same efforts and resources could save a multitude of lives if used in a different way. But - not OUR lives.
But, I keep on raging. Poor Dale - it's not really meant personal. I'm just considering to give the whole fucking effort up and go back to sales of anything. Precision machine tools producing 35 spark wheels a minute for cigarette gas lighters. Beautiful technology, highest precision, highly skilled labour force. My son, 26 today, is a precision mechanic, producing and selling planetary gearboxes for automatic door opening systems for people who do not have time to get out of their cars to open the garage door manually: time=money=environment.
I am a mechanical engineer, BSc, sort of know what I'm talking about. First time in Bombay, 1973, along the road from the airport to town: sewerage pipe dwellers, piece of jute at each end of the pipe. Still better than those who just sleep and live on the street with nothing at all. And we want our luxury. Well, would still be fine with me. I sleep well in spite of 30000 children dying each day because of miserable conditions. If only our luxuries would not destroy the environment. Cynical up into my last fibre I am, yes.
> In response to your post of 7/7: > If you mean what I think you mean by "localisation" then I agree this is an important dynamic. In fact, I just picked up a little book that is very germane to this issue, by Anthony Giddens "The consequences of modernity" (Stanford Univ. Press, 1990). This is the most comprehensible social science book I have read. Giddens' main theme is something he calls "disembedding", the lifting out of social relations from localized contexts, reorganizing them across large time-space distances. He is also interested in trust and personal identity in globalized systems, and mechanisms of alienation.
Sounds interesting, but i'm not sure whether we talk about the same issue. My localisation is democratic and ecomonic. Avoid trade and transport wherever possible.
Sigh, should I really send this piece of outrage?
Don't know what you think now about me. So what. One of 5.8 billion. Or one of (let's calculate: .1 percent worldwide elite) makes one of 5.8 million. Yet, if we would try it would take less than five connective knots to find common acquaintances. So, Lubbers, chuckle, be careful.
Kind cynical regards, Helmut
Qui bono? My debating "ego", Sustainable Eco-Logix? To whose advantage?
PS of 23 April 2006, ten years later. - Yes, the above is very aggressive and cynical. And I'm now feeling ever as desperate about the trends. Everything is growing, production, consumption, environmental depletion and problems. Nothing has changed for the better.