The Foolish Management Path

On occasion, I choose at random an old copy of the Ecologist to re-read and, in part, see whether issues have been, or are being, addressed.  Sometimes – but all too rarely – there is progress: the March 2009 ban on all animal testing of cosmetics in the EU, for example. Most issues mentioned in whatever edition of the Ecologist I choose have, unfortunately for individuals and society, seen no or no practical progress.

Richard HeinbergThis week, I choose the April 2008 edition of the Ecologist to re-read and my attention was caught by Richard Heinberg’s Post-Carbon Living column.  Richard Heinberg is a Senior Fellow-in-Residence at the Post Carbon Institute, an author and regarded as one of the world’s most effective communicators of the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels.

So, what caught my attention?  This concise paragraph:

“Endless growth isn’t possible in a finite world, collapse is a matter of timing.  Peak Oil and climate chaos are inevitable products of an economy based on using more of everything.”

Even if we do not know the consequences of “endless growth… in a finite world”, we know it is impossible, yet this is one of those issues on which we have made no practical progress.  We as individuals may decide, unconsciously or not, that “endless growth” cannot be questioned; our politicians, however,  have a duty to ensure that such a course of (in)action cannot be allowed.  After all:

“A depression will ensue; it’s how we manage the contraction that matters.”

Richard Heinberg saw two possible approaches to the contraction: foolish management or intelligent management.  Foolish management “would entail burning the biosphere for alternative fuels, propping up financial institutions without re-examining the wisdom of growth-based economics and responding to privation and misery with repression and war.”

Foolish management is the path nearly all politicians and political parties have chosen, although Caroline Lucas, the Brighton Pavilion Green Party MP, and the Green Party are exceptions.

Of course, the foolish management path politicians will never use the phrase “endless growth” (instead preferring “growth” or, recently, “sustainable growth”) but listen to the meaning and look at the actions – it is clear their “growth” and “sustainable growth” are synonyms for “endless growth”.

Why have almost all politicians and political parties chosen the foolish management path?  Is it because they cannot understand the issue?  Is it because they do not wish to understand the issue?  Or, perhaps, there are other reasons?  Try writing to your MP and see what response, if any, you receive.

This is Richard Heinberg’s description of an intelligent management approach:

“Intelligent management would start with an explicit commitment to redesign the global economy to run with less.  We would assess ecosphere resources and identify a humane, equitable path toward gradual reduction in population and total consumption levels so that we draw only upon what Nature can continually provide.  We would focus on those aspects of life that bring us increasing satisfaction without requiring more inputs of energy and materials.  We would reacquaint ourselves with the values of community, self-sufficiency and modesty.  We would redesign our cities to eliminate cars, while developing renewable energy sources and educating a new generation of eco-farmers.”

We can still choose the intelligent management path but how much longer will nature allow us that choice?

David M. Davison


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