Thursday, October 29, 2009


I have said in previous posts that I think the only viable option to the environmental cataclysm we are hurtling toward is population reduction. The reason, however, that population is the big problem as I see it is that, generally, western society (or more broadly, developed and indeed developing nations) does not want to change. The public does not have anywhere near enough will to change our way of life to slow down the course on which we're headed. Concluding that nothing can be done, though, is a little defeatist and fatalistic, I admit.

In fact, with the global economy in its current state, now might be just the time for us to start moving as a society toward a less goods-based way of life. Until recently, North American life has been driven by consumerism - the more you and I buy, the better the economy does, and the wealthier you and I become, basically. After the 9-11 attacks, GWBush infamously asked for "your continued particpation and confidence in the American economy." In other words, if we continue to buy stuff, our economy will keep running as it always has, and we'll be okay, both in terms of our standard of living and in terms of our level of psychological comfort, going on as much as possible as if nothing had happened. Seven years later, though, "business as usual" caused one of the most colossal failures of global markets ever, and inarguably the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression (stay tuned for a future post about the Depression itself).

So far, though, the majority of the effort to recover has been to "get things back on track," trying to return us to the very system (primarily of credit and debt) that crippled us in the first place. We have such short memories!

Common sense (and physics) tells us that we cannot have unlimited resources on a finite planet. Last year sometime a friend of mine sent me a link to this chart which estimates how much of everything we have left on Earth to use before it just runs out. It's conjecture and it's based on some scientific data, but even if have twice as long as it tells us, we're still going to run out, whether it's in our own lifetime or that of our children or that of our grandchildren. And so we need to curb our consumption, one way or another, whether that means each of us consuming less, or fewer of us on the planet consuming the same amount.

Our culture feeds us *so* many messages about the relationship between who we are, what we're worth as people, and what we have, that many of us get hoodwinked into believing it. If we could figure out how to free ourselves from our stuff - to be satisfied with what we have - then we as a species might have a very different, much richer future ahead of us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

coming soon

just to keep you up-to-date

I'm working on a number of different ideas right now, so expect new posts soon:
  • religious evangelism vs. environmentalism
  • consumerism, the economy, the Great Depression, and the environment
  • how the Judaeo-Christian worldview has contributed to our destructive environmental attitudes
  • is the environmental crisis being blown out of proportion/ is the environment really doing better now, as some are suggesting?
...lots of meat in there, and lots of reading to do on my part to get things ready. So sit tight; don't touch that (mouse)dial.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

i'm a hypocrite

I'd like to share some examples of ways I feel like a hypocrite:

1) I gave up coffee, because according to, every cup we drink represents an unconscionable 140L of water used in its production. So I drink tea now - only 30L/cup. Do I feel wonderfully self-righteous about this move? In fact, I do not. 30L/cup is still a waste, and in fact it's probably more like 45L/cup for me because I use 3 teabags per pot instead of 2, which is what I believe the number is based on. And I drink at least four cups a day, so 120L/day (versus the previous 6 cups of coffee or 840L/day). Better, admittedly, but still harmful. Even if we all suddenly drank *only* water - all 6.7 billion of us - we'd still be producing waste and using up water faster than is sustainable.

2) I discovered that using our laptop instead of our desktop PC uses a lot less energy - 90W versus the 700W of the PC +monitor. So we use the laptop as much as we can. Excellent. But we still use it, and occasionally it gets left on when nobody's sitting at it, and occasionally I forget to turn the power bar off at night so it stays idly on. Better for the planet, but still not good for it.

3) Grocery shopping, I often have to choose between local, organic, and cost. But I also want to factor in packaging, processing, chemicals used in preservation, and water used. No matter what, I always lose. Even if we go to the farmer's market and buy straight from the producers, they've still trucked all their stuff in, we often drive the ten blocks because we have my daughter and we'd rather not have a cranky/overheated/cold toddler for an entire return trip. Besides that, though, often things are more expensive! Today I paid $10 for five cloves of "Mennonite garlic" grown locally and organically. Gonna have to use it very wisely (am, in fact, preparing to plant a few cloves thereof and grow my own - only rainfall-fed, mind you).

4) I'm a musician by trade. But I almost never play in Hamilton, where I live. Instead, I drive the 65km to Toronto, by myself, at over 80km/hr (apparently this is the optimal speed for conserving gas. I drive considerably faster than that), both ways. And so that's also easily in excess of the 312kg of CO2 I would produce driving more slowly (based on the MNR's estimate of 2.4kg of Co2/L of gas). I'd love to take the GO Bus, but it doesn't run at the hours I need so I'd never be able to get home the night of a gig, so playing music would always mean at least 12 hours away from my family. I don't use the AC, it's a pretty efficient car, and sometimes I can even carpool with a bandmate, but even with all these things all I can do is occasionally harm the environment less, but I cannot actually do it any good.

...see, particularly in North America, where our culture is built around consumerism, it's all-but impossible not to harm the planet by what we do every day, no matter what it is. We shower, wash dishes, wash clothes, flush toilets, use electricity, drive places, use our computers and gadgets, listen to music and the radio and watch TV, eat stuff grown more than 50km from our houses, some of us eat meat... we're really buggered. Carl Sagan, and now David Suzuki, says that, "if you were to reduce the Earth to the size of a basketball, the biosphere would be thinner than a layer of varnish, and that's it! That's where all life exists, and nothing within that system can grow forever!" (David Suzuki on CPAC, Oct 2008).

And so, more than ever, I am concluding that the only hope for our species' survival is a major push toward population decline. It is completely counter-intuitive and goes against everything our genetics and evolutionary imperatives tell us to do, but it's the only real solution.