Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More humility

One last quotation I wanted to put from Paul Hawken:

"Our comfort and abundance is the foundation for the great differences we see in public debate and private discussions about the environment. From business and government, we are presented with the concerned but optimistic "so far, so good" assessment, a school of thought that biologist E. O. Wilson calls exemptionalist. This line of thinking relies on the ability of human beings to overcome ecological "laws" through invention, ingenuity, and gumption. For every problem presented by environmentalists, optimists have an answer: desalinization, fusion, deep-sea mining, space, and bio-engineering. Their conjectures are easier to swallow than the alarmist voices of environmentalists who say we are outstripping the earth's means to sustain the human species. Ever since the Reverend Thomas Malthus wrote his "Essay on Population" in 1798, there has been a dispute as to when or whether humankind would exceed the capacity of the earth to provide our daily bread. Books such as Limits to Growth and The Population Bomb have enlivened the controversy, not only because they were based on research and science, but because the arguments were made forcefully and dramatically. The concept of doomsday has always had a perverse appeal, waking us from our humdrum existence to the allure of a future harrowing drama. Yet another view held by a small group of writers and journalists (very few scientists, however) proclaims that environmentalism is a hoax, that we have been unnecessarily frightened, that environmentalism is a delusional scam from the political fringes to coerce others into a liberal agenda. A large and anxious audience is quite ready to wake one morning and find that, much like the thermonuclear cold war, our environmental bad dream is over, the opposing sides having made peace, and that we needn't worry anymore.
The view I choose is this: The underlying principles informing such cautionary predictions are largely correct, while the timing and nature of humankind's destiny with earthly limits is still unknown. This means that the optimists who say we will be taken care of in the future will be correct for the time being, until the day they are wrong, when we will all be in big trouble. The environmentalists, warning of impending catastrophe, will usually be wrong with regard to specific predictions, but are right in principle. What does this tell us ? It suggests we find a path of existence that honors both camps; that recognizes limits while using our innovative capacity to invent and reimagine our world to increase eficiency, decrease harm, improve our existence. In other words, we need to create an economy and way of relating to our material world that is not an either/or argument, but a means to create the best life for the greatest number of people precisely because we do not know the eventual outcome or impact of our current industrial practices. In other words, we need an economy based on more humility."

Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce. A Declaration of Sustainability. (Chapter "The inestimable gift of a future").


Davy said...

Je crois que c'est une évidence : il va y avoir de nombreuses personnes pour réfuter le danger environnemental. Cela me rappelle le post que tu as fait sur l'île ravagée par les lapins (ou un truc dans le genre). Nous en sommes au stade où nous commençons à nous rendre compte que nous avons atteint un nombre de personnes sur terre qui permet d'avoir un impact mesurable sur l'environnement. Ce qui veut dire qu'on est encore loin d'avoir ravagé toute vie sur terre. Cela revient à dire : il y a sur cette île plus lapins que de carottes disponibles. On s'en fiche les lapins peuvent aussi se nourrir de plein d'autres choses, même si c'est un peu moins bon de goût. Le vrai problème apparaît quand les lapins vivants commencent à se bagarrer pour manger les derniers végétaux qui n'ont pas encore été mangés sur l'île.
Comme l'homme est (de façon ponctuelle sur certains individus ;-) plus intelligent que le lapin, il se rend compte du risque avant que ce soit trop tard. Mais est-ce que cette fraction de la population sera capable de convaincre les autres d'arrêter le massacre ? Je n'en sais rien, je me bats pour, mais la lutte semble parfois un peu vaine. Cela n'empêche de chercher à lutter au mieux.

Cedric said...

Le post dont tu parles était sur les rennes qui avaient ravagé l'île St Mathieu, mais François avait en effect ajouté l'example des lapins sur Rabbit Island a Hawaii.

C'est vrai que la lutte contre le déni et la schizophrénie ne semble pas gagnée à priori, mais c'est notre seul moyen d'essayer d'éviter des conséquences plutôt désagréables dans un futur proche, alors il faut s'y atteler corps et âme ! Je pense que la meilleure arme est l'éducation, non seulement des jeunes mais de tous, car la solution sera démocratique ou ne sera pas...