Our human population is ever increasing. We are exponential in our growth and impact on our planet. David Attenborough has had something to say about this as a growing threat to our own survival on this planet.

We often blame our ‘human nature’ for our railroad track to destruction. We perceive ourselves to be members of a race that is fundamentally flawed and inherently doomed to suffering and consumption. We perceive wisdom is rare, crime is normal and our unsustainable lives unavoidable based on our ‘human nature’. This would indicate a rail road track to extinction – an inevitability – but should we aim to extend our existence longer, we might consider modifying our self destructive behaviours.

So what is the solution?

Utopian Design or Evolution?

Do we try to imagine a sustainable future then design a utopian society that will save the day?

Historically plans designed based on utopian ideals of an imagined future have failed to be successfully sustained, simply because they don’t work. Perhaps utopian systems don’t work because they are based on everyone having godly qualities of perfection

Evolution, on the other hand, works with what we are – accepts us for being selfish, mean, cruel, greedy, violent, kind, loving, thoughtful, generous etc – evolution doesn’t require some sort of utopian perfect god like human beings for it to be successful - evolution works.

If we look at other species of life – we can see that they don’t seem to plan their evolution based on utopian ideals – they evolve based on a feed back loop between their environment – circumstances and their biological survival needs as a species. The ones that keep up and adapt survive – the ones that don’t die out – become extinct. The ones that survive have evolved a strategy that works.

When we think about living a sustainable life we might think this means we have to give up something that we need. But in fact many species of animals are perfectly happy and have all their needs met – and yet don’t cause as much damage to the world as we humans do. So I would suggest that it’s not about giving up what we need, but in fact it is about being innovative about meeting our needs in sustainable ways.

Our latest and most successful change or evolution is a system that hasn’t been designed, planned or based on utopian ideals – it hasn’t been orchestrated by governments, political movements, or social idealisms – it has evolved over time – about 300 years.

It has been achieved incrementally, by people working off each other’s ideas. It has been lead by no one. It wasn’t the initiative of any political, government or religious body. It has no targeted end point. It proceeded according to no plan. It rewarded those who further the evolution in kind.

The industrial revolution is something that wasn’t organised, it wasn’t designed or a utopian ideal – it was something that evolved over time in all areas based on needs that people had and skills and ideas that people tried. A feedback loop was created where our needs encouraged innovation that was shared, tested and embraced in a process of evolution.

What innovative practices can you share that will contribute to the sustainable survival of life on earth into the next century?

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Replies to This Discussion

What I don't understand (or maybe simply can't accept) was the hue and cry over China's One Child Policy. They were facing a major population explosion and calculated that they simply couldn't feed all those additional mouths. So it was a logical way to deal with population pressure.

No amount of innovative ideas are going to stem the disaster awaiting us from population overgrowth. We are simply not subject to the laws of evolution, because we have found ways to keep those who are less fit alive and able to reproduce. I'm not criticizing that, because from a humanistic viewpoint, life, even with disabilities or chronic illness, is valuable, but the other side of the issue is that we can't afford to keep on supporting families of 4, 8 or 16 children. So how are we going to get the people of the world to see that problem before it is upon us? Mere provision of birth control is not the answer. It has to be better education for the poor, and active resistance to fundamentalist religions.

Of course we're still subject to Evolution.  We're always subject to Evolution.  Technology simply changes the environmental conditions which select for certain traits.


It's just that without socially-imposed limits, we're selecting for ignorance, carelessness, and bat-shit crazy (by which I mean the Quiverfull movement and Nadya 'Octo-mom' Suleman).

Actually, you're right. But please include Mormons and other religions that advocate having as many children as possible. Plus cultures in countries where children are regarded as valuable farm workers, and insurance in old age (which leads me to why we SHOULDN'T be making Medicare unavailable to low-mid income seniors through the use of vouchers which won't pay the bill, per Rep. Ryan). I'm also against tax cuts or credits for having children -- they use MORE resources, not less, so why should families with a lot of children pay less taxes and not more? Oops, sounding too radical here!

Umm, you want me to list all of the insane cults in this country?  The character limit on these text entry boxes isn't that high.


Actually, don't agree with all of your comments, but I have similar feelings about welfare.  By all means, take care of the children that are already here, but once someone goes on welfare, they get a birth-control implant to keep them from having any more.

The problem with China's one child policy comes not from religion, but from another deeply rooted illogical belief based in culture. Respectively their belief that only a son is a worthy child to have. Now they are facing (forgive the bluntness) a severe deficit of women, because families prefer that their one child be a male. So, although I agree in principle that such a policy is desirable, in practice it proves to be disastrous because of lack of rationality.

I say first eliminate such ridiculous beliefs (that a man is more worthy to carry on the family name) and then apply the policy.

Or you know what? I would even agree to a two child policy. If we cannot reduce the population let us at least not increase it. I would say seven billion of us is quite sufficient!

Irrationality is everywhere! My rational, but never to be realized idea about surnames is that the boys should get their father's name and the girls should get their mother's name, and so you would avoid the atrocities of hyphenated hyphenated names, but have a chance to carry on either, and just the luck of the draw what you get.


I do believe in a one-child policy, not that it's ever going to happen, because 7 billion is more than sufficient -- we're ruining the world. Everyone could eat tuna if there were, say, only 2 billion of us, and not endanger the species. There would be room to let significant areas stay wild, and room for farms and cities, and enough people to maintain technology while not leaving an unduly large footprint. I truly believe that current overpopulation is the root of all the other environmental evils of our time, and that's with large populations living in poverty and at the edge of starvation. I would rather see a much smaller population living as comfortably as the middle class in the US, with medical care for mothers and infants, and the elderly taken care of until they die a natural death. Idealist, I am!!


Evolution in Man:

Descendents of people who survived the pneumonic plague now carry a gene which makes them immune to HIV.


Because there was no husbandry, prehistoric man did not evolve to digest milk (except mothers milk during early years).  Lactose tolerance in now increasing in certain populations.


Some mid-eastern groups have developed immunity to malaria.







Lactose tolerance is a strange thing, and I don't think very much is officially known about it. An example is, they say Asians are almost always lactose intolerant. But after Japan started growing economically, and started giving their children milk, guess what -- they could tolerate lactose after all, even into adulthood.

I also have my own personal experience. I once gave up all milk products for several months because someone told me they thought it was the cause of my allergies. Well, it wasn't. So I started to drink milk at lunchtime every day. And every day, like clockwork, at 5 PM, I would have severe cramping and diarrhea. But I was pretty stupid, because I never made the connection. And after a couple of months, guess what? The cramps and diarrhea went away, and I was once more able to drink milk.

So it seems to me that lactose tolerance is simply based on continuing to drink milk in sufficient quantities to maintain production of the enzyme that breaks it down. And it has nothing to do with evolution.

Carriers of one copy of the sickle-cell gene are resistant to malaria. Those that have no copies either die or are very sick, and those that have 2 copies get sickle-cell anemia. But this is in Africa, not the Middle-East. In the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, they have thalassemia, another form of anemia, but I have never heard of it being connected with malaria.

About 60% of the world population is lactose intolerant, largly Asian and African.  Northern Europeans have the lowest rate (2% in Denmark), presumably because they evolved with husbandry.  Are you contending that if everyone just started drinking milk regularly they would all start producing lactase?  And when did a single anecdote constitute proof? 

Well my Japanese example is not a single anecdote. My own anecdote was simply a case of recovery of lactose tolerance -- anecdotes can spur studies, because at least you know it is possible.

What I am saying is that if the Japanese are an example, it may well be that never giving up milk can cause the body to retain the ability to digest it. That's different from STARTING to drink milk. And means that lactose intolerance is acquired (by stopping the drinking of milk), not genetic.

Natalie, you are trying my patience.  Please go to the literature.


My initial point was simply that man is still evolving, regardless of my poorly phrased replies.  There are oodles of studies and research.

(Hope you took this in good fun)


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