The 1WOW Assembly provides insights into the conflict to expect when inequality is experienced in consumption options. From the assembly, students see what is fair (or not) about food and energy. Just like schoolyard scraps break out so will international conflicts; it is just a matter of scale. While bad leadership rises quickly to power by segmenting people and demeaning the minorities, good leadership looks to the underlying issues and seeks to work out more equitable solutions. Classmates help create a better future for themselves by working within their own peer groups to support the natural leaders to enhance their manner of exercising leadership traits.
That quick and broad stroke summary of the 1WOW program flavors how I absorb everyday news events. It has caused me to continue digging into the overall societal patterns – from my neighborhood up through national and global news. As ever more people are recognizing, the trends are not good. What is ahead for today’s youth is a world threatened in a myriad of ways, often due to behavior of those making policy or consumer decisions since the end of WWII.
Limits to Growth
In a prior blog post I pointed to how climate change skepticism was marketed. Oil industry executives funded internal research, then covered over the conclusions via marketing. Their goal was to enhance the growth of their business, the economy, the growth of progress, … finance, wealth, industry, opportunity, ideas, … and population. Also told clearly in 1972 (and immediately denounced by economists and industrialists) was that there are “Limits to Growth”
Economists deal with mental representations of wealth, which can be imagined ever bigger. Life though is confined to a planet with finite size and is sustained through material and energy exchanges of the individual organisms. Human have appropriated the habitat of other species and are extracting from the long term planetary deposits. We pollute by our “efficient” factories that overwhelm the environment in every way, including factory farms that turn forests and prairies into mono-cultures (deadly to diversity) sustained only by chemicals. We have passed beyond the physical limits for sustainable growth.
Consumption Impacts Mount
An article, “Population Collapse” decries the degree to which we have diminished the variety of life. There are many such articles. This graphic summation at the right should be a warning. When those fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and the energy for supplying irrigation, for tractors, harvesters, etc. are depleted there won’t be enough wild systems left to balance out the material flows.
In analogy, we can see we are driving towards a cliff. Do we accelerate? hit the brakes? or change direction?
The pollution from our global society is apparent in oil and chemical leaks, spills, and general garbage disposal. Balances of mass and energy, of chemical and biochemical processes are not being maintained by our factories that produce such large volumes of materials designed to resist decomposition. There are good and bad consequences to every action (yin-yang), and plastics are one example. These new, stable, non-biodigestible compounds make for great beverage containers, paints, and structural components (like a computer keyboard) but then pile up after we’re done with them.
“This increase is being driven by increased urbanisation,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. India and Indonesia are also witnessing strong growth. Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularised in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose.” The “Guardian”: A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangerous as climate change’
Thus avoidance of one form of water contamination leads to yet another form of pollution. We are out of balance; how we are living can not continue; i.e. our society is unsustainable. As the consequences of over consumption mount, the bill is coming due. We can not predict what will be “the last straw” but it looks certain that it will hit this century. The global impact of human consumption is too great.
The Global Impact of Human Consumption
Soils, air and water, depending upon climate, can indefinitely support a balanced level of plants and animals. Biologists refer to it as the carrying capacity of the environment. It is always adjusting in a dynamic balance; if it is a good year for plants, the rabbit population will go up – but that is followed by supporting more predators (say foxes or coyotes.) So the rabbits control the foliage and the foxes limit the rabbits, with the top predators in turn limited by the health of the forest to produce rabbits.
About 10,000 years ago, as humans came out of the last Ice Age, some of our hunter-gatherer ancestors adopted both the awareness of intentionally planting seeds and the concept of protecting territory where those seeds were planted – the basics of an agricultural society. This also can be pointed to as the beginning of the end for sustainability. A friend and mentor I met in an online course on sustainability writes books and has a blog filled with delightful examples well worth perusing and considering:
Before it was reduced to a pathetic marketing buzzword, sustainable was one of the most powerful words in our language. It described a healthy and intelligent ideal, a mode of living that could continue for thousands of years without causing irreversible wreckage — a way of life that had a future. In an era when many “well educated” people still refuse to acknowledge the reality of evolution, or the human contribution to climate change, almost none have a competent understanding of ecological sustainability. What Is Sustainable
Where have we humans reached – after a few hundred thousand years as part of nature, but only a few hundred years of mining the accumulated fossilized deposits of past photosynthesis? Since the dawn of agriculture until the expansion of Europeans into the Americas, human population was a fairly steady 100 million globally. By 1800 it grew to a billion, and doubled to 2 billion by 1930. It was the access to coal, oil and gas that enabled the tractors, then later supplied the chemical options that allowed humans to appropriate so quickly the habitat of the other species for the consumption of our population. Looking at current studies of Land Degradation and Collapse of Ocean Fisheries they point inexorably to our way of life as unsustainable. So too does the need to stop adding greenhouse gases which means a halt to the current extraction industry of coal, oil and gas upon which the agricultural system is based – from farm to grocery store shelves. Thus, beyond the dire need to mitigate climatic consequences already in the pipeline (there is a 40 year lag for most of the heat imbalances associated with any given level of greenhouse gases as insulation) there is the imminent threat of population collapse due to not having a sustainable source of food for consumption.
The Need for Quality Leaders
Simply ignoring that there is a problem ahead is convenient for the current policy makers in the driver’s seat. The “HANDY” Study shows that inequality allows societal elite to perpetuate policies that accelerate societal collapse. Inequality is suicidal for society as a whole, the passengers in the car. The passengers must awaken to the fact that their driver is not acting in their group best interest. Maybe “Ignorance is Bliss” but for our global society it promotes the 6th Mass Extinction.
Student loans, financial bubbles, human rights issues, religious and ideological feuding are ultimately only preludes, distractions, to the systemic inequalities set to unfold in the 21st century. Will we have leadership of a quality to steer us through a constriction agreeably, or will it be a century of conflict that dwarfs the worst seen in the 20th century. Student speakers at the “March for Our Lives” event in Washington DC on March 24, 2018 show promise of leadership. So too do the youth fighting in the US courts demanding the Precautionary Principle be applied to governmental actions as to climate. Yet the deck is largely already stacked and dealt. It will take the highest quality of leadership – across all nations and generations – to avoid having the stress ahead devolve into utter conflict, war, disease and chaos. Citizens and parents of today’s youth need to research what is said here and in the links, then prepare to be a collaborative citizenry facing problems squarely sharing consequences of past wrongs equitably, and supporting what best policies that remain.