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

I don't get offended that easily -- I was thinking about instead of trying your patience, I should just DO it -- no trying needed! :-)

I will admit to not being organized about studies, so I never know what to quote, but what is it -- the existence of one contrary example disproves a theory. Something like that. Sort of like the existence of one black horse disproves the theory that all horses are white. My experience of the Japanese is simply from watching them for 43 years. I've lived in Japan, and speak Japanese, and have revisited many times, and watch Japanese news programs.

It may well be that humans are still evolving, but it happens so slowly that we'll never know! Unless we get a punctuation of equilibrium! :-)

And my experience of studies is that they do contradict each other, so what we think we know now, may turn out to be absolutely wrong in a hundred years.

But keep on talking to me -- I do listen! :-)


You're incorrigible!  I don't have the time at this instance to go into one of my diatribes - but you are right that evolution requires time.  It doesn't happen right before your eyes, but it does happen. And I'm glad you have a sense of humor.  The discussions on this site can get sooo serious and contentious. Till later...

Oh, I can rant with the best of them! With absolutely nothing but my own self-confidence in my obviously superior intellect to back me up!

But my goal in life is to be able to see the other side, even when I think they're dead wrong -- to try to see why they think the way they do. And every so often, if the stars are lined up properly and the gods are asleep, I do change my mind! :-)


promote atheists and there outlook educate people education is powerful and  can change the coerce of society. look around in the world the less educated people are the more prone they are to embrace religion and what it entails violence paranoia poverty drug use etc.   it starts with the mind --Azel

Even if every person in the world was educated, we would never be of a single mind.  Take a look at the Western World.


True, Roman, but the goal is to be able to live alongside those of a different mind and not kill them! I learned a new phrase today: dogmatic absolutism. Fundamentalists of every stripe are dogmatic absolutists, and it makes it hard to get along with them. If a person is willing to acknowledge that other people may have different beliefs, and willing to live and let live, and grant people the right of conscience, that would go a long way to creating world peace.

Natalie, I agree with you, but people have been saying that for generations.  I even used language like that when I was a hotshot kid who thought he knew more than his elders (and maybe I did :-), but it's a yearning that is never realized - and afraid never will be.  Look at how deeply our own country is divided between the two political parties - the loathing on both sides is palpable.  (By the way, I hate conservatives.)  See what I mean?


Yours in Pessimism,  Roman

Yeah, I know I'm a hopeless idealist, as well as a bleeding heart liberal. And I know I will not live to see world peace and prosperity in my lifetime, but I just gotta have my fantasies. And meanwhile try to live in peace with people whose beliefs differ from mine, because if I don't do it, who will? There are people who want to kill me because of my ethnic background, and rather than hate them, I feel sorry for them, because they are so benighted. And I have no power to lift the veil from their eyes. Just gonna live as well as I can.


Natalie ._c-

Population growth is not necessarily exponential, a lot of research would consider that it will slowly level out. one source I picked out http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2003-12-09-worldpop-usat_x.htm but there are more. 

There are a lot of positives from the industrial revolution (ie. Technology), but also a lot of negatives (sweatshops - they were called workhouses in 19thC England, we've just outsourced them to the 3rd world now. Pollution etc.) To say that it was something that "worked" is a matter of who you are in society, it meant that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and still does today, nothing new there though.

Technology is valuable in and of itself for mankind, the industrial revolution (and various wars as well!) have fueled funding for technology which has pushed it along, its just a shame that profit and killing are often the main motivating factors (and/or side effects) for technological progress.


Innovation is something that occurs naturally (in animals and humans, in evolution), we already have the foundations for sustainable living but there is no funding for it. Governments (especially the USA) would rather spend there money on Wars, weapons, and perpetuation of the oil industry than on renewable energy research (which will kill the oil industry and hence a lot of revenue and sponsorship from US companies that have higher GDPs than many small countries), stem cell research etc.


There are four main things that will save humanity: World cooperation (removing religion, borders and oil from the equation will probably help facilitate this, although it is the most complicated of the 4 things because of the greed of individuals), Sustainable lifestyle/energy (Satisfying the world's energy needs will not only improve standard of living in poor countries, but also contribute to prevent world food shortage - hydroponics for food, desalinization for water, energy for transportation of these goods) , Improved Healthcare & research (including proper nutrition for the obese nations of the world! prevent rather than treat!), Education.


I don't think that list is utopian! what is utopian is to believe that human beings won't act in there own interests, so when cooperation becomes favorable over hoarding oil for example then people will cooperate. When implementing sustainable energy becomes financially more beneficial to the government than supporting oil then they'll do that. We just have to hope that its not too late by then. Or we have to do something ourselves right now to change the current situation - like voting in an independent candidate rather than one of the main candidates.


"...what is utopian is to believe that human beings won't act in their own interests..."


The problems we have is precisely because people are acting in their own interest.  It's an evolution thing.



which is exactly what I meant. general Utopian ideals don't work because we all have self interest, and most utopian ideals follow that we can all end up with a common philosophy on life, but I don't think thats practical. What we need to do to support our planet is for things that are of benefit to the planet to be seen as being of self benefit. People are rewarded for wasteful anti-social behavior in western society, causing pollution, cutting jobs, buying a new TV every 6 months... screwing each other over and abusing the planet is what we are educated by the media to do to "get ahead", to "be the best", have a better car than you friends. this behavior doesn't make people happy, it just gains them almost useless material wealth.


Understanding that destroying the planet will ultimately destroy yourself and your gene pool should be something that is acceptable to all but the insane and the suicidal. Being educated is an advantage in all societies, people drop out of the education system because the education system does not support them correctly, its too hard, too boring, they don't earn money from being at school (although they would earn money in the long run, but people think in the short term a lot... lack of education again). Healthcare directly benefits you if you are sick and extends your life, so again you would need to be mentally ill to not want health care improved (or have a social disorder like a religion that tells you not to accept blood transfusions)


So the only tricky one is everyone realizing that cooperation is favorable to competing... thats a tough one, I don't have a practical theory to implement that... but I do think if we had universal health care, sustainable living and world education competition would become a lot less important. Maybe I'm just dreaming, but every good idea starts with dreamers and I hope I can do my part to contribute to the future.


Self interest is always going to exist so practical ideas need to work with that and not try to change human nature.

Tom - Self interest will always exist, as you stated, but it's not just because of greed.  A man who cannot feed his family has little use for a strip of rainforest when he could use it to grow crops.  He doesn't care about the long term because he need to eat today.  And that's the way it is in many parts of the world.




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