Monday, 6 August 2012

People power as a destructive force.

People power is often seen as a positive use of our freedom of choice to demonstrate solidarity and underpin the cause of social justice. In this instance I refer to the power of a vast global population to change the balance of resource and climate to the point where we risk (or reach species extinction.

Serious stuff, but I hear muttering that it wont happen just yet, why should I bother right now? Well perhaps our grisly destiny is peering at out at us from behind the curtains of our collective denial, perhaps it is really only just around the corner!

Thresholds (and supportive capacity), the maths of exponential growth mean that even our best models are always likely to be a reactive scenario rather than a projection. It will place us in jeopardy to only think in straight lines.

Enter a computational research scientist by the name of Stephen Emmott who has created a sublime piece of theatre, based upon the science of overpopulation and backed by his huge capacity for handling research in computational science. He takes the audience through the facts and figures in a precise and informal way, describing himself as a rational pessimist, based upon the probability that we cannot cope with the level of change required to be optimistic in any rational way. The play is called 10 Billion and the run is sold out, but I hope more people do get to see it.

A more comprehensive critique can be found here:
I would recommend a read.

As if to prove the point about rational pessimism, I would like to share an example of irrational optimism, that is, that by using fewer plastic bags we shall in some way do so much good. Life cycle figures for various bags are fairly inconclusive, you would have to use a hemp bag a good number of times for it outperform  a plastic carrier. Most people re-use their plastic carriers for various things, thus rendering them more sustainable than some other options.

On the issue of plastic waste fouling the land and oceans, yes it is a problem, but is just one of production and use or our behaviours, handling and duty of care that are more important?

I'm sure you will find this article informative and amusing on the subject:

So, to conclude this chapter, I would ask that everyone should think (deeply if you like) about the true benefits of many campaigns (given that it is possible to carry on only a limited number) in relation to their over distraction from more important issues, you know the ones, the sort politicians are really scared to tackle! That;s where people power truly belongs.

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