Friday, March 27, 2015

an Archdruid report



The Archdruid is a blogger whose weekly posts I've read regularly since before I took up the blogging habit myself. John Michael Greer is the author of many books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. In January of this year he posted a piece about intentional technical regression as a matter of public policy that has stayed in my mind ever since, one that ought to be more widely read. I hope both you and the Archdruid himself will forgive me for posting the greater part of his essay:

Imagine, for a moment, that an industrial nation were to downshift its technological infrastructure to roughly what it was in 1950. That would involve a drastic decrease in energy consumption per capita, both directly—people used a lot less energy of all kinds in 1950—and indirectly—goods and services took much less energy to produce then, too. It would involve equally sharp decreases in the per capita consumption of most resources. It would also involve a sharp increase in jobs for the working classes—a great many things currently done by robots were done by human beings in those days, and so there were a great many more paychecks going out of a Friday to pay for the goods and services that ordinary consumers buy. Since a steady flow of paychecks to the working classes is one of the major things that keep an economy stable and thriving, this has certain obvious advantages, but we can leave those alone for now.

Now of course the change just proposed would involve certain changes from the way we do things. Air travel in the 1950s was extremely expensive—the well-to-do in those days were called “the jet set,” because that’s who could afford tickets—and so everyone else had to put up with fast, reliable, energy-efficient railroads when they needed to get from place to place. Computers were rare and expensive, which meant once again that more people got hired to do jobs, and also meant that when you called a utility or a business, your chance of getting a human being who could help you with whatever problem you might have was considerably higher than it is today.

Lacking the internet, people had to make do instead with their choice of scores of AM and shortwave radio stations, thousands of general and specialized print periodicals, and full-service bookstores and local libraries bursting at the seams with books—in America, at least, the 1950s were the golden age of the public library, and most small towns had collections you can’t always find in big cities these days. Oh, and the folks who like looking at pictures of people with their clothes off, and who play a large and usually unmentioned role in paying for the internet today, had to settle for naughty magazines, mail-order houses that shipped their products in plain brown wrappers, and tacky stores in the wrong end of town. (For what it’s worth, this didn’t seem to inconvenience them any.)

As previously noted, I’m quite aware that such a project is utterly unthinkable today, and we’ll get to the superstitious horror that lies behind that reaction in a bit. First, though, let’s talk about the obvious objections. Would it be possible? Of course. Much of it could be done by simple changes in the tax code. Right now, in the United States, a galaxy of perverse regulatory incentives penalize employers for hiring people and reward them for replacing employees with machines. Change those so that spending money on wages, salaries and benefits up to a certain comfortable threshold makes more financial sense for employers than using the money to automate, and you’re halfway there already.

A revision in trade policy would do most of the rest of what’s needed.  What’s jokingly called “free trade,” despite the faith-based claims of economists, benefits the rich at everyone else’s expense, and would best be replaced by sensible tariffs to support domestic production against the sort of predatory export-driven mercantilism that dominates the global economy these days. Add to that high tariffs on technology imports, and strip any technology beyond the 1950 level of the lavish subsidies that fatten the profit margins of the welfare-queen corporations in the Fortune 500, and you’re basically there.

What makes the concept of technological regression so intriguing, and so workable, is that it doesn’t require anything new to be developed. We already know how 1950 technology worked, what its energy and resource needs are, and what the upsides and downsides of adopting it would be; abundant records and a certain fraction of the population who still remember how it worked make that easy. Thus it would be an easy thing to pencil out exactly what would be needed, what the costs and benefits would be, and how to minimize the former and maximize the latter; the sort of blind guesses and arbitrary assumptions that have to go into deploying a brand new technology need not apply.

So much for the first objection. Would there be downsides to deliberate technological regression? Of course. Every technology and every set of policy options has its downsides.  A common delusion these days claims, in effect, that it’s unfair to take the downsides of new technologies or the corresponding upsides of old ones into consideration when deciding whether to replace an older technology with a newer one. An even more common delusion claims that you’re not supposed to decide at all; once a new technology shows up, you’re supposed to run bleating after it like everyone else, without asking any questions at all.

Current technology has immense downsides. Future technologies are going to have them, too—it’s only in sales brochures and science fiction stories, remember, that any technology is without them. Thus the mere fact that 1950 technology has problematic features, too, is not a valid reason to dismiss technological retrogression. The question that needs to be asked, however unthinkable it might be, is whether, all things considered, it’s wiser to accept the downsides of 1950 technology in order to have a working technological suite that can function on much smaller per capita inputs of energy and resources, and thus a much better chance to get through the age of limits ahead than today’s far more extravagant and brittle technological infrastructure.

It’s probably also necessary to talk about a particular piece of paralogic that comes up reliably any time somebody suggests technological regression: the notion that if you return to an older technology, you have to take the social practices and cultural mores of its heyday as well. I fielded a good many such comments last year when I suggested steam-powered Victorian technology powered by solar energy as a form the ecotechnics of the future might take. An astonishing number of people seemed unable to imagine that it was possible to have such a technology without also reintroducing Victorian habits such as child labor and sexual prudery. Silly as that claim is, it has deep roots in the modern imagination.

No doubt, as a result of those deep roots, there will be plenty of people who respond to the proposal just made by insisting that the social practices and cultural mores of 1950 were awful, and claiming that those habits can’t be separated from the technologies I’m discussing. I could point out in response that 1950 didn’t have a single set of social practices and cultural mores; even in the United States, a drive from Greenwich Village to rural Pennsylvania in 1950 would have met with remarkable cultural diversity among people using the same technology.

The point could be made even more strongly by noting that the same technology was in use that year in Paris, Djakarta, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Tangiers, Novosibirsk, Guadalajara, and Lagos, and the social practices and cultural mores of 1950s middle America didn’t follow the technology around to these distinctly diverse settings, you know. Pointing that out, though, will likely be wasted breath. To true believers in the religion of progress, the past is the bubbling pit of eternal damnation from which the surrogate messiah of progress is perpetually saving us, and the future is the radiant heaven into whose portals the faithful hope to enter in good time. Most people these days are no more willing to question those dubious classifications than a medieval peasant would be to question the miraculous powers that supposedly emanated from the bones of St. Ethelfrith.

Nothing, but nothing, stirs up shuddering superstitious horror in the minds of the cultural mainstream these days as effectively as the thought of, heaven help us, “going back.” Even if the technology of an earlier day is better suited to a future of energy and resource scarcity than the infrastructure we’ve got now, even if the technology of an earlier day actually does a better job of many things than what we’ve got today, “we can’t go back!” is the anguished cry of the masses. They’ve been so thoroughly bamboozled by the propagandists of progress that they never stop to think that, why, yes, they can, and there are valid reasons why they might even decide that it’s the best option open to them.

There’s a very rich irony in the fact that alternative and avant-garde circles tend to be even more obsessively fixated on the dogma of linear progress than the supposedly more conformist masses. That’s one of the sneakiest features of the myth of progress; when people get dissatisfied with the status quo, the myth convinces them that the only option they’ve got is to do exactly what everyone else is doing, and just take it a little further than anyone else has gotten yet. What starts off as rebellion thus gets coopted into perfect conformity, and society continues to march mindlessly along its current trajectory, like lemmings in a Disney nature film, without ever asking the obvious questions about what might be waiting at the far end.

That’s the thing about progress; all the word means is “continued movement in the same direction.” If the direction was a bad idea to start with, or if it’s passed the point at which it still made sense, continuing to trudge blindly onward into the gathering dark may not be the best idea in the world. Break out of that mental straitjacket, and the range of possible futures broadens out immeasurably.

It may be, for example, that technological regression to the level of 1950 turns out to be impossible to maintain over the long term. If the technologies of 1920  can be supported on the modest energy supply we can count on getting from renewable sources, for example, something like a 1920 technological suite might be maintained over the long term, without further regression. It might turn out instead that something like the solar steampower I mentioned earlier, an ecotechnic equivalent of 1880 technology, might be the most complex technology that can be supported on a renewable basis. It might be the case, for that matter, that something like the technological infrastructure the United States had in 1820, with windmills and water wheels as the prime movers of industry, canalboats as the core domestic transport technology, and most of the population working on small family farms to support very modest towns and cities, is the fallback level that can be sustained indefinitely.

Does that last option seem unbearably depressing? Compare it to another very likely scenario—what will happen if the world’s industrial societies gamble their survival on a great leap forward to some unproven energy source, which doesn’t live up to its billing, and leaves billions of people twisting in the wind without any working technological infrastructure at all—and you may find that it has its good points. If you’ve driven down a dead end alley and are sitting there with the front grill hard against a brick wall, it bears remembering, shouting “We can’t go back!” isn’t exactly a useful habit. In such a situation—and I’d like to suggest that that’s a fair metaphor for the situation we’re in right now—going back, retracing the route as far back as necessary, is the one way forward.

No more than John Michael Greer do I expect this is a solution that would be actively embraced by those currently in positions of economic and military power, but it's an interesting and uplifting thought experiment.





26 comments:

marja-leena said...

Very interesting indeed! In a sense, he has taking Gramp's longing for 'the good old days' and looked at the possibilities and advantages. I like the environmental benefits and the going back to more family farms. We could do it if we really wanted to but corporations and the governments they control have their hands on that agenda. Overpopulation is a problem too. Ah well, we can dream!

Should Fish More said...

It's an interesting mental exercise, and while I agree philosophically, I don't think entropy can be reversed. But it's a good 'lets pretend' thing to do, and the reasons behind it are good ones. But it's hard to erase knowledge.
I would rather not, though, go back to 1950's era medicine. I wouldn't be here were it not for modern technology in that realm.
Your watercolor is lovely, I can almost feel the texture.

susan said...

Falling back to an earlier time is an appealing prospect for me too, Marja-Leena. I like simple systems, physical engagement in the world, nature, focusing on the basics. Those things have always held more excitement for me than the latest and greatest stuff. Plus I'm well into middle age now with the tendency to nostalgia that brings - not unlike Grampa :)

You're right that overpopulation is a very serious problem.

susan said...

For years John Michael Greer has been writing about the inevitability of collapse and what can be done to ameliorate its worst affects on human society and the natural world.

The nature of the political unrest we're seeing right now makes me worry a lot about what the social aspects of the “new normal” on the other side of crisis. I’m noticing the way that hatred and vitriol towards specific religious and ethnic groups has, over the course of this last year, gravitated toward the center to become a unifying viewpoint across the political spectrum, and it’s become controversial to express the slightest concern about the trend.

I know what you mean about 50s medicine as I wouldn't be here either were in not for modern skill aided by technology.

I'm glad you like the painting, Mike. It's far from being one of my best, but it's what came about this week.

Tom said...

Whenever I read a script that seems to favour "Ludditism", I inevitably come to the point where I conclude that attempting to return to a former time simply does not work. Technologies interlink! You cannot get rid of the stuff we don't want without getting rid of the stuff from which we benefit. The real problem here is that this essay by the Archdruid is an attack on technology rather than on those who develop and use technology; all of us. He seems not to have realised, for example, that the "working classes" don't want a return to the 'good old days' with all the misery that that would ensue. Yes of course, we can take steps to improve workplace relationships; working conditions, and so on. Yet none of that will happen until we are faced with conditions that we cannot accept. At the moment, regardless of US pushy trade policies, most people do and can accept what is happening. Disaster and trauma will generate change, not wishful thinking, no matter how noble. And how do you convince people that change in someone's idea of the 'right direction' is necessary? There are still loads of people who don't or won't believe in global warming. There are still too many people who believe that there is always room for one more baby. There are still too many people who say 'change yes, but not in my back yard.' It isn't technology that is at fault, it is people.

Halle said...

Having lived in the 1950's and having been cowed into submission in its "Hot-diggity, Dog-diggity, boom!" "Just do as you are told~ don't ask questions!" philosophical wasteland... Oh please let's not consider that time some sort of utopia... please.

Or alternately, see Tom's much kinder but absolutely bang on comment above.

Vincent said...

I agree with almost everything that the Arch-Druid says, and in the clear way he says it; but with some caveats. The Fifties would be my choice too, but I recognize a bias: it was the decade of my teens, and perhaps Arch-Druid's too. So it must be relegated to a generational pipe-dream, despite any rational arguments in its favour.

A further caveat has already been well expressed by Tom, when he says that "Disaster and trauma will generate change, not wishful thinking, no matter how noble." This is also the view of James Lovelock, in The Vanishing Face of Gaia: a final warning: that climate change, and our defective human nature, will together create a global situation which will throw us into a more primitive survival mode, following a catastrophic loss of infrastructure. Gaia will win, human population will be partially wiped out. From what I know of Lovelock, I don't think he got this notion from the hundreds of apocalyptic movies - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apocalyptic_films

And the harm caused by internet porn, which I don't underestimate, seems hardly enough reason to wish away the world-wide web, which has made this discussion possible.

susan said...

Hi Tom, Thanks for reading the article through and for your comment. It's a mistake, however, to read Ludditism into the Archdruid's article when what he is in actuality is a realist. Although he suggests incorporating the technology level of an earlier time for the simple reason that it was a period where we didn't make so much use of fossil fuel energy sources, his point is that adopting conservation at a personal level is likely to be better for us as individuals than buying into the hype of an ever expanding technological lifestyle that depends upon infinite resources from a finite source.

G.K. Chesterton put it well when he said:

If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be restored upon any plan that has ever existed.

In posting this section of one of his weekly 'reports' I had hoped to draw some attention to his overall understanding of what's occurring in our world in this period. Make no mistake, Greer is well aware of the disaster and trauma that we're witnessing, that collapse is fractal and not linear. Of course it's not the tech that's at fault but people's tendency to believe, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that tomorrow will be just the same as today.

In a post he wrote years ago he opened with this statement:

I’ve suggested several times in these essays that the broad shape of the most likely future facing industrial society, at the end of the age of cheap abundant energy, can be sorted out very roughly into three phases: the age of scarcity industrialism, the age of salvage societies, and – if we are lucky – the ecotechnic age, when new societies based on sustainable high technology will rise on the ruins of our own unsustainable time. For a variety of reasons, any typology of this sort is easy to misunderstand, and it seems worthwhile just now to clarify what I intend to say, and what I don’t, in proposing this model of the future.

I think, overall, you'd probably enjoy reading his hypotheses.

susan said...

It’s probably also necessary to talk about a particular piece of paralogic that comes up reliably any time somebody suggests technological regression: the notion that if you return to an older technology, you have to take the social practices and cultural mores of its heyday as well. I fielded a good many such comments last year when I suggested steam-powered Victorian technology powered by solar energy as a form the ecotechnics of the future might take. An astonishing number of people seemed unable to imagine that it was possible to have such a technology without also reintroducing Victorian habits such as child labor and sexual prudery. Silly as that claim is, it has deep roots in the modern imagination.

He's talking about sustainable technology rather than social mores, Halle. Nobody in their right mind would want to return to wholesale segregation as it was practiced in the American South either.

susan said...

Hi Vincent,
Once again my best source for response is in referring to another Archdruid post about catabolic collapse from 2006 where he stated:

It makes a great deal of difference whether the challenge of the next century is seen in terms of keeping modern industrial civilization moving along the asymptotic curve of progress, on the other hand, or managing the decline to a more modest and less ecologically suicidal deindustrial society, on the other. We’re in much the same situation as family members who have to decide on medical treament for an elderly parent with half a dozen vital systems on the verge of giving out. If the only outcome we’re willing to accept is keeping Dad alive forever, we guarantee ourselves a desperate, expensive, and futile struggle with the inevitable. People, like civilizations, are mortal, and no matter how much money and technology gets poured into the task of keeping either one alive, sooner or later it won’t be enough.

On the other hand, if we accept that Dad is going to die sooner or later, and concentrate on giving him the best possible quality of life in the time he has left, there’s quite a bit that can be done, and real success comes within reach. This can also have the additional benefit of making life better for later generations, because the money that might have been spent paying for exotic medical procedures to keep Dad alive for another three months of misery can go instead to pay college tuition for his grandchildren. The same thing is likely to be true in the twilight years of industrial civilization; the resources we have left can be used either to maintain the industrial system for a few more years, or to cushion the descent into the deindustrial future – not both.


Yes, Gaia will win, but we have to hope not all humans (and the biosphere itself) will lose. There's little doubt life on the planet will continue no matter what happens.

In regard to internet porn and the internet itself as it exists now, his conclusion is that the infrastructure itself will be unsustainable - much like potholed, rutted highways with fallen bridges won't allow easy passage of vehicles.

I wouldn't mind 50s tech levels either, but I could do without the super-sized cars. It's a fact we're not going to support eight billion people on this planet for long, no matter what we do. The question at this point is how to handle the inevitable contraction.

Halle said...

Perhaps an apology for my lazy and visceral comment is in order. So, I'm sorry.
Having said that, I do not see the necessity for identifying a useful piece of technology with a historical period. It seems to me that true progress toward a better use of the planet's limited resources will come from finding a way to exploit current and newly developed technologies fully, rather than suggesting we must put some technological genie back into its bottle.
If one can invent a new technology that uses an old idea more effectively, why call it regression? Simply produce it and market it to the benefit of all.

susan said...

Your apology is cordially accepted, Halle. I feel as though I've let myself in for the task of defending the conclusions of a writer well equipped to do so himself - and far better than me, besides. I'm quite sure the Archdruid would agree with your statement "that true progress toward a better use of the planet's limited resources will come from finding a way to exploit current and newly developed technologies fully, rather than suggesting we must put some technological genie back into its bottle." He's not saying we should deliberately get rid of any particular technological device or system, but that in an age of scarcity many of the complex apparatuses created by contemporary applied science will be more difficult, if not impossible, to maintain at current levels. There will continue to be many opportunities for human ingenuity. Nobody knows what the future holds in store. Clairvoyance would be a handy talent.

Tom said...

Oh dear! My rather lengthy response appears to have been lost in the ether somewhere. Never mind. This is a very big subject to deal with in this manner. All the same.......:)

susan said...

Hi Tom, You're right all this is a very large subject indeed, one James M. Greer has written about extensively in many of its iterations. You may or may not agree with all his arguments or conclusions, but I do hope you'll read one or two of his essays yourself if time and mood allow.

I'm sorry to hear you lost your lengthier remarks as I would have been interested in reading more of your thoughts on this subject. I've had that happen myself a time or two and it can be very frustrating. Half a year ago I installed a program called Lazarus that saves anything you type into a desktop file so you can always retrieve what you've written. It's quite handy and it's free.

gfid said...

This imminent collapse is something I've anticipated since even before the web-age. It's why I moved to a small town to raise my kids, why I got involved with HFH ReStores, and why I'm once again in a house on a big lot In a small town. I couldn't agree more with Archdruid - except that I don't have much hope that this will happen voluntarily for most of the world, human nature being what it is... I believe there will come a time when there is no choice, and the transition will be traumatic for those who chose to ignore all warning signs. Those few who have made voluntary lifestyle changes will be better prepared.

Lydia said...

I will think about this for a long time. It's one of those concepts that will no doubt be with me from now on....into the future. Thank you/

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Interesting post and of course it would be good if we could revert to a simpler lifestyle with less waste, whilst retaining those real advancements in science and technology which have improved our health and wellbeing. But that would mean ditching a lot of wasteful prices and goods, but that is not going to happen until mother necessity inevitably rears her head.
Interestingly enough a lot of technology is inefficient and involves constant rework under the guise of updates. When I was in business I saved the organisation a small fortune by always buying ‘’Hand Me Downs’’, being old mainframe computers which we maintained from our own internal inventory. They handled the odd 750, 000 invoices / advices each week admirably so that we were decades behind the times to most but miles ahead in terms of stability, ease of operation, efficiency and much lower operating costs. The mainframe suppliers made all sorts of threats but to no avail as we serviced the old boilers ourselves.
I loved your painting; that can never be replicated in its original form by a robot.
Best wishes

Halle said...

Your "Hand Me Downs" reference made me chuckle. A few years ago, I took over a job that entailed making use of an old (maybe 6 years old only at the time) laptop with an old but reliable operating system that was no longer "supported". My solution was to disconnect the machine from the internet completely, effectively convincing the machine that it was still living in 2009. Continuing to work at its assigned tasks perfectly to this day!

susan said...

Goodness knows it hasn't required too much effort these past years to connect the dots on this one. It's a big part of the reason we returned to Canada and also chose a small city that's relatively close to our son in New England. While Halifax isn't one of the Transition Towns he's very much in favor of, at least it's reasonably tight knit. The Archdruid has been writing about collapse all this time. While he's well aware of the potential for sudden dislocation and trauma (as we could say has already happened in New Orleans and Detroit) his main thrust has always been about what people can do to prepare for the worst. You have already been doing lots in that regard and I salute you :)

btw: If you have use for online bedtime stories (when I haven't provided one), I highly recommend you open his website and read anything.

susan said...

He's a very thoughtful writer who has provided much insight for me over the years. The good thing is the Archdruid isn't the least bit preachy either :)

susan said...

Hi Lindsay and Halle too,

Basically, the Archdruid has been proposing a strategy of 'Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush' - it's even the title of one of his books. The trick, of course, will be to avoid throwing out (or losing altogether) the benefits earned and learned.
The idea of using and refurbishing tools (like your old mainframe) is exactly what he's been advocating for a long time. Somehow in these past few decades, in a process that's been accelerating at a frightening rate (depending on whether one believes in the Singularity saving everyone), the cultural thrust has been toward using devices we have no hope of repairing or even understanding. Personally, I prefer sailing ships and steam engines (especially solar powered steam engines), never mind my old sewing machine that I can repair by myself.
It seems a better plan to trust in individual ingenuity and good will.

Glad you liked the picture :)

All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Halle & Susan
Indeed, and as an added point I suspect there is far more adaption, and use of bespoke solutions in technology by users than is generally realised. At least that has been my experience, where practically every major application came down to a bespoke application, since “off the shelf” rarely fitted. So the idea of using what you have with some patches and repairs is to be applauded, as opposed to the throw away mentality. But certainly the growth in the current throw away mentality and lack of quality are central major issues,
But I am also a tad more optimistic as to the future, as I think it comes down to a rather simple point in the end. Ether you have some faith in human beings being able to improvise or adapt to future challenges by incorporating ethical standards in future technologies, and moving to change tact to more sustainable options on those currently in place or you don’t. I see more evidence of this every day, it’s not in most corporations interests to be hostage to fossil fuel dependence or to be indifferent to the environment. Making things that can be totally reused or recycled and or don't harm the environment is filtering through the economies at an increased rate . Technology needs to be all about sustainable solutions which can be evaluated as either being ethical or not. The post is good to stimulate thought, even if the idea of going back to the fifties in my opinion maybe is somewhat of a red herring, or possibly just an analogy to the central issue of ensuring a more sustainable future.
Best wishes

Ol'Buzzard said...

In 1950 the world population was about 2.5 billion people - today we are over 7 billion and growing. The population has tripled along with demands. I think we are producing goods more efficiently, but keeping up with demands requires an increase in industrial productions and an increase in garbage, pollution and energy. The cause of all our problems, including climate change, is over population - zero population growth is not a popular solution - easier to address industry.
the Ol'Buzzard

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Yes Ol'Buzzard, I'd say humanity's greatest challenge and issue is whether as a species it will collectively limit its population to a sensible level, or if it will just leave nature to do that job less pleasantly.

susan said...

Hi again, Lindsay
I agree with you there's a lot more adaptation of machines and devices of all sorts than might be guessed. The Archdruid has gained thousands of followers over the years and hundreds who comment about the efforts they're making in their own lives to be more adaptable and I think that's a great thing. Of course, a great deal of what can be done depends a lot on what is currently available - ie, someone in the industrialized west has far more opportunities for recycling, upclycling, and re-purposing than a person in a country that was left behind during the high output years. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of products of industrial society that can be transformed into resources for a deindustrializing world - likely enough to be shared further afield. Once you start thinking about a de-industrialing society and the possibilities of a salvage economy being taken up instead (as yet another interim solution), the future looks a lot less unpleasant. Once again, I should mention that J.M. Greer has been saying for years that, barring some 'black swan event', the post-industrial, post-fossil fuel, age of collapse will take a very long time - hopefully, a staircase rather than a cliff for many, but not all. He used the analogy of a world that uses 50s tech as a thought experiment and not as a prescription he expects the culture at large to adopt. The long term goal for all thoughtful people really is sustainability.
All the best

susan said...

Hi OB, I left a comment on your blog last week about this issue, saying you're quite right. Those who have studied the matter say the optimal population for Earth's ability to allow us comfortable lives is 1.5 billion - not the 8 billion plus we'll have by 2025. It's frightening. Yes, there are people living deep in denial who refuse to believe the evidence of 'their lying eyes'. On the other hand, Japan and several European countries already do have low birthrate levels. What's saddest, in my opinion, is that birthrates are highest in the world's poorest countries. Children born to face disease and starvation rather than any hope of a future is the greatest tragedy of all.

On a personal level, my husband and I have one child. Most of our oldest friends had no more than one or two children and most of those now grown children are currently childless. One way or another, the VHEMT seems to be gaining a low level ascendency in the West.. whether people of child bearing age know about it or not.

Andrew: Nature's way will definitely be most unpleasant - and - as always - not evenly distributed.