I haven’t had much to say of late because everything that needs saying is being said by others more informed, articulate and public than this blog – Naomi Klein, George Monbiot, Owen Jones, Caroline Lucas, and even (whisper it) Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders…
But anyway, the stream of bad news and the ‘sign this petition’ requests keep on coming – the powers that be merrily continue to ignore or actively make worse the state of our world. Climate change? Issue some more fracking licenses. Declining bee populations? Spread those neonics (I wonder which arms company is planning to produce the nanobot microdrones to pollinate our food crops when all the bees are gone). Education? Health care? Gotta be better when you have to make a profit as well as cover the costs, doesn’t it? Who cares, as long as the 1% can make even more money out of it?
So Facebookers drown our sorrows (or bury our heads in the sand) with charming videos of cute animals and children laughing.
And even the climate change believers can’t mention the dirty word, ‘population’. Sustainable growth is what we must aim for. All we can do, it seems, is mitigate (energy efficiency and renewables and nuclear (don’t worry about the waste disposal issue – future us will sort that out, I’m sure)) and adapt (be prepared to move when sea levels rise – and maybe build some walls to keep out the people displaced by water shortages or flooding or wars?).
I watched a programme the other day about prehistoric Britain, and the Edenic image of a world when humans were few enough to be just part of the ecosystem seemed profoundly attractive. Back then it was a pretty hard existence, I expect, and agriculture and population growth probably did make for a more secure life (though not necessarily a healthier one, as diet was poorer than for hunter gatherers and the repetitive labour of production – an hour a day grinding corn, for instance – caused diseases like arthritis), but today, why can’t humans live better with fewer?
Here’s a mad, science fiction idea: women of the world unite and pledge not to have more than two children each. Population growth stops at a stroke and we can use our vaunted technologies to make a good life possible without devastating the environment with massive factory farms and without armies of underpaid workers to do the crap jobs (while generating the excess that makes the rich richer). If we can give up this addiction to consumption for the sake of consumption (or rather for the sake of ‘growth’ – that neoliberal, trickle-up Ponzi scheme), there would surely be more than enough carrying capacity for everyone and for the larger ecosystem we depend on and are part of.
However, that mad idea requires humans to act rationally and collectively, with thought for the future and the planet, instead of focusing on fearing and hating the ‘enemy’ next door. So maybe it will be down to other forces to redress the balance. Maybe the engines of population control will be antibiotic-resistant bacteria, obesity, the spread of tropical diseases in a warming world, water wars, and other unintended consequences we aren’t even aware of yet.
I’ll shut up again now. Let’s watch some lambs gambolling…