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Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it… (Genesis 1:28)
Dear patriarchal, monotheistic Deity,
thanks for the good advice. We have dutifully followed these instructions. What next?
The People of Earth
Today the human population is rapidly approaching 7 billion, growing by around 80 million a year. That’s 1.5 million every week or 10,000 every hour. The human ecological footprint (impact upon nature) is the total number of people multiplied by average per capita level of consumption. Both total population and average consumption are increasing which is why we have an environmental crisis. Humanity is consuming the living fabric of our planet faster than it can regenerate and thus extinction is increasingly likely (for us and many other species).
There is a pervasive and dangerous taboo which prevents an honest, open and pragmatic debate about reducing the total human population. There seems to be an assumption that because human life is sacred and reproduction a fundamental right, we should all just keep reproducing as if the planet was still a giant unexplored wilderness and resource constraints inconceivable. Sadly, this era is long gone. If human life is sacred, shouldn’t we work to keep it in existence for as long as possible? Over population is a short cut to extinction, as David Attenborough says “All environmental problems become harder — and ultimately impossible — to solve with ever more people.”
Limiting human fertility also offends because it may discriminately affect the underprivileged but there are multiple ways to reduce human population in a progressive way that actually helps to redistribute wealth more fairly. The greatest mistake we can make is to ignore the population time bomb, for whatever reason.
Population growth is highest in developing countries. The two proven, most effective ways of slowing this growth is (1.) to reduce infant mortality and (2.) to educate woman for longer. Both of these should be given top priority anyway, irrespective of the importance for the global ecosystem. Governments must join up their environmental and developmental strategies and, urgently, invest far more to achieve these aims.
The aspiration in many developing countries is to have lifestyles like people in the West, for example, car ownership in China has ‘exploded’. However, this is impossible. It is not just that the developing world cannot consume like us in the West. We in the West cannot continue to consume as we do, resources are running out.
Current global rates of consumption are said to be unsustainable and with population and consumption both increasing the only way we can become sustainable is by reducing consumption combined with reducing population. Developed countries must contract consumption to converge on a sustainable and fair global average.
Some Western countries with static populations like Spain and Italy have set up funds to boost fecundity. Spain now offers a 2,500 euro bonus for every baby born. Of course, from a global perspective this policy is diametrically opposed to sustainability. Countries faced with the fiscal problems associated with static growth and an ageing population can make their borders porous and accept the flow of immigrants coming from more crowded countries rather than incentivising additional populaion growth.
At a time of global ecological collapse the notion of the nation-state isn’t just anachronistic, it is dangerous and retarded. We cannot shift to sustainability and survive without taking a global, scientific view-point on resource use and climate change, so, with this planetary perspective in mind, lets respond as one species without borders.
Project Prevention is a US charity that has caused an uproar by paying (bribing) drug addicts to become sterilized so that they cannot bring a child into the world that is born to suffer. Should this concept be extended? Why not set up a global fund to pay anyone who will voluntarily take the money: a fee to be sterilized?
The reason this plan would be unpalatable is because within the unfair global economic system the poor will more likely take up this offer of cash, but is the world any fairer, or better, where half a million poor women die every year in child-birth and millions of children die from malnourishment? At least paying volunteers to be sterilized will help to redistribute wealth and alleviate suffering.
Why don’t we do this in the UK too? Currently the government pays increasing child care support with each extra baby, an ill-advised incentive to increase the population further. Why don’t we shift things around so that if you have had two children the government will pay you a one-off lump sum to get sterilized. This reduces population and increases the quality of life of those remaining.
Thousands of years ago when the Old Testament was being put together, the human population was a minute fraction of what it is today. In that era, the guidelines for human success were to procreate and claim land. Today, the game has changed. Go forth and multiply are instructions for a long gone era. It is time for new planetary guidelines for our species. Crucially, these plans, policies and ideas must reduce the total human population, reduce per capita consumption whilst creating a fairer and happier world so how about:
Valentine’s Day is the culturally appointed moment when we affirm our love and appreciation for our partner. En mass we get amorous and consummate our passion. Naturally capitalism feasts on this kind of mass behaviour. In today’s world Valentine’s Day comes with a price tag and the costs are not just financial.
Many of the things marketed to us come with unpleasant impacts that we may not be aware of. By causing harm elsewhere these gifts dent our karma and unbeknownst to us muffle our mojo. Buying imported Kenyan roses, any kind of disposable tat or, god help us all, a diamond, actually reduces the total amount of love in the world. Is this what you want!? If it isn’t… avoid the dodge and go with the natural, free and sexy alternatives listed below.
Shocking news just in: nations of the world are sending their wankiest people to Cancun after word got out that it is just going to be a giant international circle-jerk. Last year leaders of the free world gathered in Copenhagen for COP 15 but decided, at the last-minute, not to bother with a global treaty to protect: the natural world we depend on, our children or their future descendents. So this year… the gloves are off!
In a desperate last-minute bid for alien intervention to save us from the evil alliance of perverted-banker-greed and slimey-politician-scum good citizens of the world (http://earth.350.org/) are coming together to create giant symbols to grab the attention of passing alien vessels. Maybe a more advanced civilization can point out that nature needs the bailout out not a pathological economy founded on consuming our planet.
The mile high club is for irresponsible yuppies. The cool kids are getting down and dirty 45m below sea level. A secret and fruity underground society has been spicing up European travel with sexy visits to the water closet while hurtling under the channel tunnel. Is our fast track to the world’s most romantic city fast becoming a giant Tunnel of Love?
The era of mass short haul air travel is coming to an end. Even if it were not for climate change the level of security has now made moving through airports almost as bad as a visit to Dubai. You have to give it a wide berth! Anyway, for us in the UK there really is no need to fly apart from the occasional long haul (if it is highly important).
The Channel Tunnel has opened up the whole of Europe to the British low carbon traveller. Within a day you can reach the slopes of the Alps, the beaches of the Mediterranean and all the other sweet things continental Europe has to offer. For the more adventurous a ferry from Marseille opens up North Africa.
People assume that flying will be quicker but actually the door-to-do time can be similar for trips to the Alps and the Med but the time is far better spent on a train. Reading a book, with the world rushing by outside the window is pure bliss. There is far more leg room and opportunities to stretch. The air is clean and at boarding there is far less standing around like a dejected farm animal awaiting castration.
Now that the UK’s young, aspirational intelligensia are making use of the Eurostar for romantic breaks to Paris (or further afield) it was only a matter of time before a select new club would form. You’ve done it in a plane, you’ve done it in the back of a church, you’ve done it at your Gran’s… now it’s time to do it hurtling at 200mph through the channel tunnel 45 metres below sea level.
EcoHustler is diligent about staying ahead of the curve and maintaining thorough research so that all information on this site is cutting edge and absolutely verifiable. We had to know if this mysterious club existed; what membership really entailed and any other grizzly details that could be uncovered. Return tickets to the not-so-gay Paris were purchased. A couple of nights booked in a sweet little hotel in Montmartre overlooking the red light district. Then I simply had to call on my trusty side kick, the beautiful and daring Ms A. Minx to come along for the ride.
It wasn’t until the yawning cavern of the Channel Tunnel approached that I began to explain the true nature of the mission to Ms A. Minx. She was stunned to learn of the 45 m underground club and shared my desire to find out more. I proposed an undercover research mission. Did she consent? Your damn right she did! The EcoHustler is now a member of both the mile high club and the 45 m underground club and I can tell you which one I am more proud of joining.
Occasionally life can get monotonous and we need thrills, spills and vacations. As Eurostar and this fruity little club are clearly revealing you can now get what your heart desires for a minimum carbon footprint. So the next time you need a romantic break head to Paris and join the 45 m undergrouns club. Any members are welcome to post word of their adventures below.
Here are some useful low carbon travel options:
How to travel by train or ship: Maybe you don’t like flying, or are concerned about air travel’s contribution to global warming. Or perhaps you just prefer real travel by train or ship, where the journey is part of the adventure… Either way, The Man in Seat Sixty-One will tell you how to travel overland comfortably & affordably where you might think that air was now the only option.
Eurostar: Join the 45 m Underground Club!
Lift Share: Find someone travelling your way so you can share your journey – saving money, cutting your carbon footprint and having fun!
“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”
The Red Queen Effect (or hypothesis) is an evolutionary hypothesis named after the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass and describes the way in which we must constantly improve to remain competitive in an evolving world.
The RQE explains why no matter how much we evolve and perfect our immune systems we still get ill and still get parasites. The bacteria and parasites are evolving too and as we evolve resistance they evolve new ways of conquering them. If gazelle evolve to run faster, the cheetah must become faster too to keep up. Thus there is a constant evolutionary arms race between competing species, a key driver in evolutionary specialization.
A related biological phenomenon is habituation. Habituation is the physiological process in humans and animals in which there is a decrease in psychological and behavioral response to a stimulus after repeated exposure to that stimulus over a duration of time. Habituation explains why advertisers must constantly seek new ways of stimulating their targets. Consumer’s minds become progressively less receptive to the same message.
A related psychological phenomenon is the ‘hedonic treadmill’ which refers to the fact that striving for happiness tends not to create significant changes in one’s base level. People consistently over-estimate the amount of happiness that they will gain from events in life and from their life circumstances. For example, we are conditioned to believe that we will be significantly happier when we earn £30,000 rather then £20,000 but in actual fact we will rapidly adapt and begin longing for £40,000 a year . Well-being fails to increase as income grows. Similarly, acquiring new possessions may give us short bursts of pleasure but we adapt and there is no net improvement in our quality of life. Should we seek happiness through the accumulation of material things we will rapidly discover we need a new item. Thus a materialist outlook predisposes a person to lower levels of well-being.
For some people acquiring resources is a means to show superiority over peers and helps secure a mate and thus increases chances of successful procreation. However, any rewards derived from securing resources are relative to the quantity of resources secured by peers. Herein lies a root cause of the so called ‘rat-race’. We need to secure ever more resources in order to be equally as successful as our peers. This sexual selection in society is paralleled in nature with the emergence of traits such as the peacock’s tale or moose’s antlers which have grown enormous as a result of sexual competition between males.
What the male peacock gains in reproductive success with his large tale he loses in his agility and flying capacity. Many male peacocks will have died prematurely due to the handicap of their tails. However, they could never have joined the dots between their untimely death and their engorged secondary sexual characteristics.
Our societies are highly competitive places as a result of the highly competitive processes driving the selection and dispersion of our genes. We are genetically predisposed to behaviour patterns that have now become pathological when multiplied by six billion people in the modern world. Now on a global scale our competitive resource acquisition is unbalancing the planet’s eco-systems and could lead to humanities untimely extinction. However, unlike the peacock, we are aware of what we are doing.
Economically, The Red Queen Effect manifests as the necessity for continuous growth economies. No country can relinquish hallowed economic growth less it falls behind competing nations; hence, the international Tragedy of the Commons , climate change and the collapsing biosphere. A widely held belief (enshrined in conventional economics) is that consumption is a proxy for well being. In other words, the more you consume the greater your well being (or happier you are). This has been repeatedly disproved and for over 50 years human well-being has been decoupled from economic growth in rich countries. For example, people today in Britain are richer than ever before. UK national income has tripled in real terms over the last 50 years. However, people’s well-being has not improved proportionally. As societies grow wealthy, differences in well-being are less frequently due to income, and are more frequently due to factors such as social relationships, enjoyable leisure pursuits, purpose in life and enjoyment at work.
How can we stop over-consuming, devastating the biosphere, polluting the atmosphere and competing head to head within our own species, like horny stags with antlers locked, when these seem to be genetic components of who and what we are, formed back in the primeval crucible?
Human redemption is possible through the privileged and superior perspective of consciousness. Evolution of the human mind has allowed us to the study the universe, biological systems and our own nature. It also allows us to step back from our evolutionary prerogatives and take stock of the remarkable improbability of our own existence. A radical conclusion is that there is nothing to do or achieve. We can opt out of competition and reject the notion that more of any thing is better.
Instead of a social, cultural and economic emphasis being on acquiring wealth and consuming products we should change our values to shift our focus to life-long learning and creativity. We could completely change the education system so children spend more time working creatively. Sport, music, art and many of the creative things humans love doing need not have any ecological footprint at all. By consciously changing the values that underlie society we can celebrate all we have and our interdependence with the rest of the living universe.
The universe, biological systems and technology are going to keep evolving irrespective of what we do. An option available to the opened mind is to stop rushing to keep up and focus on cooperation to improve well-being rather the competition to acquire wealth. So long as you are competing to ‘get ahead’ in life or working to get more things you are a rat in a race and the finish line is extinction. Alternatively, by connecting to a deeper reality, embracing creativity and a philosophy of voluntary (material) simplicity we can enjoy the best of life without consuming our own life support system.