Workshop to be presented at The Institute on Religion in an Age of Science - 54th Annual Star Island Conference, July 26 to August 2, 2008 www.iras.org. Tuesday and Wednesday, 4:00–5:00 P.M., Lawrance
J. Kenneth Smail
MIGHT THE CONVERGENCE OF MULTIPLE“INCONVENIENT TRUTHS” SIGNAL THE EMERGENCE OF DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIETAL COLLAPSE?
This year’s workshop represents an extension of my Star 2006 presentation entitled "Confronting a Surfeit of People..."
I will suggest that an important “emergent” phenomenon has become increasingly likely, namely the growing potential for a global “synchronous failure”, a cascading political, economic, social, environmental, and demographic collapse stimulated by the mutuallyreinforcing convergence of multiple “inconvenient truths”.
Chief among these truths are surely:
CONFRONTING A SURFEIT OF PEOPLE: REDUCING GLOBAL HUMAN NUMBERS TO SUSTAINABLE LEVELS An essay on population two centuries after Malthus J. KENNETH SMAIL Department of Anthropology, Olof Palme House, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022, USA (e-mail: email@example.com; fax: 740 427-5815; tel.: 740 427-5812) (Received 26 June 2001; accepted 18 February 2002) Abstract. It has become increasingly evident over the past several decades that there is a growing tension between two seemingly irreconcilable trends: (1) moderate to conservative demographic projections that world population size could easily reach 9 billion (or more) by the mid-to-late twenty-first century; and (2) prudent and increasingly reliable scientific estimates suggesting that the Earth’s long-term sustainable carrying capacity (at an ‘adequate to comfortable’ standard of living) may not be much greater than 2–3 billion. I therefore argue that it is now time – indeed, past time – to develop and implement a set of well-conceived, clearly articulated, broadly equitable and internationally coordinated sociopolitical initiatives that go beyond merely slowing the growth – or even the stabilization – of global human numbers. After summarizing a number of ‘inescapable realities’ that the human species must soon confront, and notwithstanding the considerable difficulties involved in establishing rational and defensible global population optimums, I conclude with several suggestions relevant to the next logical step: how best to bring about a very significant reduction in global population size over the next two to three centuries. To the extent that there is still time to choose whether this dramatic decrease will be under conscious control or essentially chaotic, these proposals are cautiously optimistic.
BIOSKETCH Ken Smail is Professor of Anthropology (Emeritus) at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. He retired in 2004. His teaching and scholarly interests have centered around physical anthropology and human evolutionary biology broadly-defined (PhD Yale, 1976). His writing and thinking over the past twenty-five years has focused primarily on peace and conflict resolution issues (the “peace hostage” concept) and, more recently, on matters pertaining to global over-population, finite environmental
************ Qui bono? - To whose advantage? ************
Feedback to the NYT regarding the latest public speech of the origional Inconvenient Thruth, Al Gore:
Al Gore's speech is a load of unscientific shallow wishful thinking. The gentleman fails to address basic problems, such as
1. Humanity has overshot the planet's carrying capacity by far. Therefore it is illusionary to try and find means to continue living business as usual plus some energy savoing light bulbs.
2. Humanity's overshot - in numbers and in consumption per capita - was only possible because of a draw-down of temporary abundant fossil energy sources and other non-renewable resources, such as soil, groundwater, biodioversity, old growth forests, seemingly empty spaces, a normal climate. So the problem is not too little but too much energy for human production and population growth.
3. Technology cannot recreate lost resources.
4. Nuclear power is a finite resource as well. It will do nothing against climate change. Reducing fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emissions by one per cent would require constructing 250 nuclear power stations. And it's based on the same illusionry belief in BAU - Business As Usual.
5. Al Gore's technologies are wishful thinking. You can't save the world today with yet-to-be invented means.
6. Climate change is a fact and unstoppable. We can only try not to accelerate it by reducing emissions.
7. The debate is a lost cause anyway as long as we still want to have economic growth - as if growth could be immaterial.
In sum, Al Gore at al. have understood nothing of the real meaning of sustainability, i.e. consuming resources only as much as nature can reproduce at the same rate. Neither have the seen that we are in a horrible state of overshoot where only rapid contraction and more frugal lifestyle can reduce our environmental impact and greenhosue gas emissions.
The earth/nature doesn't care about human feelings, ebndeavours and beliefs. The stark environmental facts tell us that we've overdone and if we don't turn around voluntarily, nature will stop us - in an awful way. Scarcities will lead to hunger, riots, wars an some idiot will then push the atomic war button and then you may mount your wings and fly upwards, each to his/her own particular heaven and God or Goddess or the high priest of economic growth and flat earth religion.