We must leave behind 10,000 years of civilization; this may be the hardest collective task we've ever faced. It has given us the intoxicating power to create planetary changes in 200 years that under natural cycles require hundreds of thousands or millions of years"”but none of the wisdom necessary to keep this Pandora's Box tightly shut. We have to discover and re-discover other ways of living on earth.
We love our cars, our electricity, our iPods, our theme parks, our bananas, our Nikes, and our nukes, but we behave as if we understand nothing of the land and water and air that gives us life. It is past time to think and act differently.
If we live at all, we will have to figure out how to live locally and sustainably. Living locally means we are able get everything we need within walking (or animal riding) distance. We may eventually figure out sustainable ways of moving beyond those small circles to bring things home, but our track record isn't good and we'd better think it through very carefully.
Likewise, any technology has to be locally based, using local resources and accessible tools, renewable and non-toxic. We have much re-thinking to do, and re-learning from our hunter-gatherer forebears who managed to survive for a couple of hundred thousand years in ways that we with our civilized blinders we can barely imagine or understand.
Yep, let's all return to that sustainable world of 8000BC, scrap the worldwide division of labor and all our technology, and go back to subsistance farming and travelling by horse. Gee, what a happy time that was...
Interestingly, this guy is making an incredibly common failure among physical scientists -- the attempt to apply conservation of mass/energy physical models or bacteriological growth models to economic growth:
Endless growth is an impossibility in the physical world, always"”but always"”ending in overshot and collapse. Collapse: with a bang or a whimper, most likely both. We are already witnessing it, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.Because of this civilization's obsession with growth, its demise is 100 percent predictable. We simply cannot go on living this way. Our version of life on earth has come to an end.
Here is what I wrote, in a post titled "Physics, Wealth Creation, and Zero Sum Economics"
My guess is that this zero-sum thinking comes from our training and intuition about the physical world. As we all learned back in high school, nature generally works in zero sums. For example, in any bounded environment, no matter what goes on inside (short of nuclear fission) mass and energy are both conserved, as outlined by the first law of thermodynamics. Energy may change form, like the potential energy from chemical bonds in gasoline being converted to heat and work via combustion, but its all still there somewhere.
In fact, given the second law of thermodynamics, the only change that will occur is that elements will end in a more disorganized, less useful form than when they started. This notion of entropic decay also has a strong effect on economic thinking, as you will hear many of the same zero sum economics folks using the language of decay on human society. Take folks like Paul Ehrlich (please). All of there work is about decay: Pollution getting worse, raw materials getting scarce, prices going up, economies crashing. They see human society driven by entropic decline....
[But] the world, as a whole and in most of its individual parts, is wealthier than in was in 1900. Vastly more wealthy. Which I recognize can be disturbing to our intuition honed on the physical world. I mean, where did the wealth come from? Out of thin air? How can that be?
Interestingly, in the 19th century, scientists faced a similar problem in the physical world in dating the age of the Earth. There was evidence all around them (from fossils, rocks, etc) that the earth had to be hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of years old. The processes of evolution Darwin described had to occur over untold millions of years. Yet no one could accept an age over a few million for the solar system, because they couldn't figure out what could fuel the Sun for longer than that. Every calculation they made showed that by any form of combustion they understood, the sun would burn out in, at most, a few tens of millions of years. If the sun and earth was so old, where was all that energy coming from? Out of thin air?
It was Einstein that solved the problem. E=mc2 meant that there were new processes (e.g. fusion) where very tiny amounts of mass were converted to unreasonably large amounts of energy. Amounts of energy so large that it tends to defy human intuition. Here was an enormous, really huge source of potential energy that no one before even suspected.
Which gets me back to wealth. To balance the wealth equation, there must be a huge reservoir out there of potential energy, or I guess you would call it potential wealth. This source is the human mind. All wealth flows from the human mind, and that source of energy is also unreasonably large, much larger than most people imagine.