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Lester Brown's Box

""There is no box. That is the mind-set we need if civilization is to survive."
Lester Brown

In “Ishmael”, Daniel Quinn used the character of a gorilla to get outside of our politically correct, green-left box of humanitarianism, as conditioned by a heritage of agrarian-born “Sky-God” religions, socialism and feminism. Seen from a gorilla’s point of view, our social and environmental problems could seem open to solutions that our Judeo-Marxist inhibitions will not allow on the table.

"It is definitely the view of humanity from a non-human point of view, so that our perceived virtues are not necessarily virtues when they're perceived from the outside," Quinn explained. "The food race is a good example, the race between growing more food and birthing more people. We perceive generally that this race can be won by agriculture, so we cheer when we hear that agriculture has made some advance to support a growing population ¬ whereas in fact the race is unwinnable. It's like the arms race of the '70s and the '80s. ... There's no winning of the arms race. There's no winning of the food race either."

I would add an amendment to Quinn's dictum:The food race is a race that humanity cannot afford to win. The capability of continuing to expand the food supply to meet a growing human population which in turn would demand more food would be as calamitous as the discovery of a cheap energy source that could fuel all of consumption needs and wants. We are in desperate need of limiting factors, and nothing is more limiting than hitting a brick wall called “Imminent Mass Starvation”. The lack of food is the only effective contraceptive on the market today. We talk of voluntary family planning, or a One-Child Per-Family law miraculously applied world-wide, but the fact is, this is like betting your life’s savings on a lottery ticket. We have run out of time and haven’t the luxury of wishing on a star that a vast grassroots constituency for population reduction will emerge and rise up to impose their will on governments. The politically incorrect fact is that the balance of birth and death must be restored by working on both sides of the equation by being aggressively pro-active in preventing life and passively determined not to extend it at all costs.

So Mr. Brown, it is not too late to get out of your box. You must consider the possibility that civilization is not "sustainable", and that your quest to find a way to feed 9 billion people is a fool's errand. We cannot sustainably feed 9 billion, or 0.9 billion people for that matter---and trying to do that will only degrade our environment to a point where the prospects for species survival are even further diminished. You must come to realize that it is a matter of historical record that, like other species, left to our own devices the number of humans will expand to meet a higher level of food supply. Calling that realization immoral or callous is like railing against the Law of Gravity. A cap on food supply will be applied whether we like it or not. If it is done by nature, billions more people will suffer starvation down the road than will perish now if we reflexively resort to food relief without strings attached, that is, the implementation of an effective birth control regime. I suspect that even that condition will not suffice to bring population levels down quickly enough. As Peter Goodchild observed, lower birth rates must combine with higher death rates to avoid full catastrophe. The question may be, which is more valuable, our Judeo-Christian sensibilities---or the continuity of our species itself? So far the answer has been "Virtuous and extinct".

Tim Murray
September 5, 2010

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Nothing profound to say, and not wanting to argue the point with anyone. A long while ago I stopped giving money to over-populated countries and regimes that take earnings from a country like ours, only to buy guns and ignore population growth as their significant poverty factor.

I prefer that funds should go to Australian needs like MS, Heart Foundation, Canteen etc.

To 'Nobody of any Significance', your comment is of significance and you have my vote. Australia has over 100,000 homeless and many other disenfranchised people in our own neighbourhoods.