Hello Cruel World
Sunday, November 03, 2002
An Angry Reply
The Australian Financial Review's piece (Red alert over Greens threat,
31/10/2002), included the laughable-if-not-so-treacherous 'weasel'
phrase: "a headlong rush to sustainability". This is probably an example
of one type of "Straw Man". Argue against a nonexistent danger
of "a headlong rush putting everything else aside".
I would characterise it more as the headlong rushing of tortoises
uphill through chilled molasses. Consider:
We are currently commemorating the 40th anniversary
of Rachel Carson's publication of "Silent Spring" (it took me,
barely in primary school, a few years to work out which of several
possible meanings that title meant). There had been earlier
discussions of the problems being caused by the kinds of things
happening around humans, but it was this work that
caused a major public reaction, where the others tended to be
among specialists & particularly interested groups.
It is nearly 30 years since "The Limits to Growth" report
from the Club of Rome was disseminated.
A lot of good work has been done since then. Things could be
worse than they are, but the "headlong rush" has in general
been in the opposite direction to sustainability. Many statistics
demonstrate this. One easy one: a Tom Lehrer song from near the
time of "Silent Spring" about nuclear destruction (We Will
All Go Together When We Go) hymns "nearly two billion hunks
of well-done steak"; recently I think I remember newpaper reports
of events marking the six-billionth human alive at present.
Reports from plain simple things like satellite images demonstrating
the magnitude of human effects have also been released in the last year.
The Fin Review also quibble that "sustainability" is poorly defined.
Contemplate other poorly defined concepts such as "life", "death",
"love", "money", "good", "evil" or "human".
Somehow, despite sometimes violent disagreements about them,
humanity has agreed that they have considerable importance.
Many people & societies have come to ways of dealing with the
majority of incidences of these of importance in most peoples
conceding that there are 'hard cases' in all of them which fortunately
occur less frequently than the others.
I wonder how we could calculate how many people have been born,
then died early because of the physical & social destruction?
How much (nett) water, air, land polluted or lost, how much
valuable ecological infrastructure destroyed (with how much
human & non-human suffering), how much social capital dried up
& blown away like the lost soil, how much other damage done in
those 40 years? Then we'd have to see how the balance sheet
worked in the other column, like that fellow who's recently published
a book of selected good statistics. Of course, we can have some
good discussions about how to value the things in the different
columns, or even how to define them. Unfortunately, while
talking continues, so does time & lost chances.
Consider also perhaps some ideas opposite to "sustainability".
Concepts like: "greed", "selfishness", "short-term vision", "stupidity"
(in the sense of failing to learn from repeated previous examples
&/or failing to grasp clear logical connections), "unviability" and,
Can the Oz Fin Rev manage to support these in any kind of
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Australia, New South Wales, Sydney, English, photography, reading, natural history, land use, town planning, sustainability.