Uh oh – 2 stories that should make us rethink everything

Posted May 5th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 2 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

I often tell people not to look to hope for that other thing, optimism. And don’t look to me for optimism. The trends are not looking good for us in terms of a future without a lot of suffering, without the necessity of huge choices carrying enormous significance, without willingness to accept a great deal of disruption and a major reversal of expectations for our lives and how we will live on this planet.

Greenland icesheet - source: Earth Institute Columbia University

I tell people we have to live in the real world, not the one of the fantasies this culture so easily presents to us – every time we turn on our TVs or our computers.

Here again is why we can’t live like we are anymore, two updated pieces of news:

“…the Arctic’s polar ice is melting at a much faster rate than previously thought…”

A report “released by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, the scientific arm of the 8-nation Arctic Council…finds that the past six years – between 2005 and 2010 – were the warmest years recorded in the Arctic since measurements began in 1880.”

Said Gordon Hamilton, leading glaciologist, “the [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] estimate for sea level rise from 18 to 59 centimeters is a very large underestimate and we are looking at something probably double the upper end of the estimate. So we are expecting one meter of sea level rise by 2100.”

Read more of this article here.  Or this one from MSNBC that goes with the video below:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If video does not appear, click here.

Okay, that’s one piece of the bad news.  Here’s the other:

The United Nations says that our projections for world population growth are wrong. We will not top off at 9.1-9.3 billion this century, but more like 10 billion or more by 2100.

Again, this is not good news. We are already challenged by the surge in human population – some 2.5 billion the year I was born, 1949, to 7 billion, a number we will reach later this year or next. Of course, population growth predictions are not necessarily reliable, as you can see from this study which puts the peak later and lower. However, given the growth rate just in my lifetime, we know for sure that we will add at least a couple billion more to a planet whose ecosystems and natural habitats are already under severe strain.

It would be one thing if all we needed to do was find a way to feed all of us, which is what most stories regarding this latest study have focused on. But we are already living far beyond the planet’s ability to sustain us and the millions of other creatures with whom we share it.  Right now we need 1.5 planets to sustain current levels of human extraction, consumption, and waste.

Found this graph on the website of Scott Manning, a composite of data he gathered together.

9-10 billion people, meanwhile, need not only food but also water, housing, energy, schools, transportation, tools, certain basic technologies, medical care, etc.  They need not just mere existence, but well-being.

Now our barometers for well-being in this culture are all off. We think it has something to do with iPods and iPads and video consoles. We think it has something to do with rights to own stuff, with rights to lavish pleasures, like vacation homes, vaulted ceilings, SUVs, and central air. We know that if everyone strives for this, ecosystems will collapse – soon.

Information like this tells us that we can only have lifestyles of endless consumption if we are willing to kill off or allow to die the vast majority of human beings and those to be born this century – and even in that world we will not be able to have all that because of the demise of the human economy it would entail.

In other words, we can’t go on like this even if we want to go on like this.

Last night I went to a local Sangha for meditation and our discussion afterwords focused on the Osama bin Laden assassination, our responses to it, the reality of the violence in our world, our part in it, and the nature of cause-and-effect. It was a heartfelt conversation. One young man named John who often attends these evenings spoke of visiting eco-villages in Missouri recently and how inspired he was by these communities seeking to live locally sustainable scaled down lives. What he said was beautiful:

“The freest people are those who know they have enough.”

He’s studying for finals this week. I wish him all the best. We need young men like him.

These are indeed two stories that should make us rethink everything. Time is short, and the moment is right now for us to think about how we prepare to live in such a world, how we prepare it so that it can welcome, rather than crush, that generation being born at this moment.

I know it means we can’t go on like this. I know it means the end of this global economy. I know it means the end of corporations and shareholders looking out for their own interests. I know it means stringent new restrictions on what can be owned and what rightfully belongs to the commons so that the commons can be shared and sustained in a way that ensures a future for our children and our children’s children.

Why we need to live differently ->for her. Photo my Mom


I know that means changing everything. I know that the culture is doing all it can right now to keep that change from happening – or even being understood. I also know that there is John and a host of other young people just waiting for and seeking out the paths that can lead us towards regeneration and back into a self-sustaining resilience of the natural world.

I know that part of the secret for finding that path depends upon us becoming the freest people we can possibly be, in the world according to John.


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2 Responses

  1. D.Bheemeswar

    this is on the expected lines, as there were some disasters like tsunami and tornado’s and also nuclear reactor explosions etc plus added to this unprecedented terror attacks by leaders who are in helm of affairs, this is the indication of some more highly dramatic changes in the NATURE of this earth. this all people who think making money, living in comforts have brought on to heads of lives on this earth. their blood sucking business is the ecological and environment degradation, that we are seeing today. with their own knowledge they are burning their own heads and others.

  2. hombredelatierra

    What goes round, comes round – anon

    As a man sows, so shall he reap – Jesus

    The gods blind those they would destroy – Sophocles