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



Instead of a one child policy we could have the equivalent of a carbon trading scheme where we can trade rights to have children.  And we can pass on those rights to our children – how ever that would work – it might be reducing if we wanted population decreasing.


It might be that we distribute the rights to have children according to a number of factors, including ability to look after them – commitment to a sustainable lifestyle and also intelligence or gifted abilities.  You wouldn’t need to have all of them, and we might not even make them tradeable in the monetary sense – otherwise it would mean that eventually 20% of the wealthy population would have all the rights to have the children – and it might create a culture of rich men, having lots of children to many different women.


Although any system like this has many ethical questions – such as perhaps everyone has a right to have a child – it’s such a natural thing.


I think the main idea would need to be based on education.  It’s been proven again and again – haven’t got any evidence to support that claim here LOL – but that if you educate people they are less likely to want children.  In fact atheists countries are lowering their population, and countries with lots of extremist Muslims and Christians are having lots of children.  Face it, if we carry on we’ll be over run with theists.  Atheism does seem to be dying out, based on numbers of children born to atheists.


So perhaps the policy should be that we – atheists have as many children as possible, and we let the theists fight and kill each other in religious wars.


I saw a very disturbing show last night saying that we might have completely fished out the ocean in 50 years – how disturbing is that!


But we also have food mountains all over the place and lots of food is wasted every day.  I wonder if it’s not our population as much as our consumer product based money economy that is the hungry beast feeding 20% of the rich, whilst we all waste the processed on crap – handbags, take away food that goes into the bin, clothes that we throw out before even half using them, I’ve got boxes and boxes of crap that are no use to anyone.  China is churning out masses of crap in the name of materialism and consumerism so that we can have something that only lasts a short time, so that we go out and buy another one to sustain our ever hungry economy.

Interesting ideas -- you have an idealist streak too! :-)

Thank you for telling me about that show -- in spite of all the advice to eat more fish for health, I have been worried about the oceans for a long time, and do not eat much fish. If our population were low enough, we could eat all the fish we wanted, and never fish out the oceans.

The issue of individual rights vs. societal responsibility is a tough one. Republicans tend to be on the individual rights side and the Democrats tend to be on the societal responsibility side, and somehow, we as a country, and then the rest of the world have to figure out how to reconcile the different viewpoints. It certainly won't be easy, and I'm afraid we will destroy the world before we ever figure out how to live in it. The analogy of humanity as a cancer on the world has its validity. We may succeed in causing a mass extinction, including ourselves, and then life may or may not continue on the planet.

One of the problems of "crap" is that we have this need to be socially presentable. You can't show up for a job interview in a T-shirt that has holes in it. Even if it is still wearable. Actually, you can't show up in a T-shirt at all. In poor countries, you see kids in rags all the time, but you just can't do that here, unless you want to be considered a worthless street person and be shunned. Even criminals show up at their trials in suit and tie, just for appearance's sake.

There are science-fiction books that explore controlling the right to have children. Law-abiding citizens in China seem to have accepted the law in their country. But I just don't see that happening in general, either, because humans are NOT rational, and NOT altruistic. Oh, maybe a few are, but certainly not the vast majority. People cooperate and work hard ONLY when they see a value in it for themselves -- communism, a beautiful idea in theory, proved that in practice.

So I'm not real optimistic about the future of the world, although I would love to be -- just doing the best I can with what I've got -- don't need to be rich, and ever grateful for the roof over my head, the food on my table, my toilet, and my holey T-shirts!


atheists have as many children as possible


Yeah, because it isn't like most atheists started off as theists or anything.



In 10,000 years we'll undoubtedly have a good worldwide, cataclysmic event.  The Yellowstone magma dome pops about every 600,000 years.  It's about due.  The future is not ours to see, que sera... 



I suppose it doesn’t matter at all to us whether humans have or haven’t survived for another 10,000 years, simply because we’ll be dead.  What does matter is that we feel that we’ve done what we can to believe that to be the case.  Dam wish you could find that crystal ball – might be useful right now! LOL



I’m in the fortunate position of never having had an abortion.  I’m not against them per se, but I think it a scary prospect and really wouldn’t want to go through it myself.  I think that some women suffer much anguish from the process, even when they really don’t want to have a child.


I know that in one rural province in China they had lots of very late abortions at nearly term, which wouldn’t be very nice.



Thanks for the tip, I might just look up that book and see if I can get a copy.


Would you be willing to share any of Wilson’s ideas here?



Interesting.  Hunter gatherer groups did though ferment milk for more easy digestion and assimilation – into yogurt or curd or other such pre-digested states.  The group in African let it turn slightly in the sun and then mix it with cow’s blood.


I’ve heard about the ones immune to HIV.  Useful.


Although unfortunately not useful as an idea – as it’s simply a matter of luck if you have or haven’t got the gene – in the sense that you’re lucky if you have it, rather than it being some random event.


I think when talking about education we need to be more specific.  Why is it that western secularists tend not to have many children, population of Europe and Australia is decreasing if not for immigration from Muslim countries.  It’s a certain kind of education and also I think a certain standard of living and mind set or world view.

Alice, everyone was lactose intolerant until just 10,000 years ago when bovines were domesticated.  The milk fermentation thing is a fairly recent event in human history, well after domestication had ocurred.



I do think also that gut flora as a lot to do with breaking down our food – and so adjusts to what we eat – in that populations grow and die off according to our general diet.


According to Sam Harris – the moral landscape – neuroscientist – we get ‘brain rewards’ for cooperating, sharing, being fare, having compassion, being kind and generally being altruistic.


We also have a drive to be ‘erratic retaliators’ towards others who are ‘outside of our tribe’.  Sam notes this in his work, but also notes that because there aren’t any aliens out there yet to unite against in order to show our altruism to each other, whilst the flip side of the coin – the ‘erratic retaliator’ to the aliens he suggests we need to just be altruistic.  I’m not sure if that was exactly what he said, but that’s my basic impression.  And because Sam just loves trashing others crappy ideas, I thought I’d have a good go at his too! LOL


So what does Sam propose that we do about our ‘erratic retaliator’ whilst be aim to be altruistic to all in the world?


The onset of civilisation doesn’t imply that we all suddenly have evolved to be nice to each other and all our territorial instinct to protect our food and loved ones has gone out the window.  I’m interested about how this will fit into our continued living ‘in harmony’ on this earth.  We can see this ‘erratic retaliator’ in our battles and wars and our ruby world cup team behaviour – when they get accused of gang sex with one women in a hotel room.  You can take man away from hunter gathering, but you can’t take hunter gathering out of man – our instincts are strong – we aren’t going to turn into civilised angels overnight.  In evolutionary terms, it would perhaps be selected for – over a very long time…

If we reduced the sex drive, and the pleasure associated with it, who would bother?  I mean, really.  We'd go the way of the dodo.

Not sure where to place this reply, so it's ending up HERE!

I don't think it's true that hunter-gatherers didn't fight with other groups. In New Guinea, the tribes practiced ritual warfare, which meant that they had traditional enemies, and fought every so often, and a few people died, and then each side went home and ate the dead from the other side. (Which resulted in Kuru, a fatal brain disease). The government worked hard to wipe out this ritual warfare for obvious reasons. Also, modern hunter gatherers, and I'm sure, ancient ones, are full of superstition and fear of spirits -- that's where shamanism comes from. I'm sure ancient humans were just as eager to explain the inexplicable as modern ones are.

Chimpanzees also fight when they encounter other groups -- often to the total annihilation of the side that loses. Jane Goodall documented that -- the end of the theory of the gentle chimpanzee.

The Jewish Bible is full of stories about self and other, replete with the sense that god was protecting them when they won, and angry with them when they lost. If you read these writings with the viewpoint that they are a historical record of a culture, complete with cosmic mythology and legend and oral history handed down, and even sex poetry, they are very interesting. I think it is innate to pre-literate and pre-scientific societies to explain the world as best as they know how. And much of the world is still functioning at a pre-scientific level, even in the US, when fundies and Catholics insist that the Christian Bible is inerrant. According to their interpretation, that is!

None of this has anything to do with getting the population down (my hot-button) or maybe it has everything to do with it. I truly think that limiting consumerism is but a drop in the bucket -- there are just too many of us to sustain a decent life for all. Those of us who are rich (and I'm including most of the US -- I may be in the bottom 40% income-wise, but I am incalculably rich compared with the poor people I saw in Nepal, and those I know are struggling in Africa, for example), simply cannot bring our standard of living down far enough to make equality for all -- after all, once you've got a toilet, you can't give it up! (half the world doesn't have toilets -- when I visited Nepal, we often just went in holes in the ground). And once our incredibly luxurious houses (I have a small, but quite livable house with 3 small bedrooms) are built, who's going to tear them down? And once the city is built, how are you going to make it walkable when part of it is exclusively housing divisions, and another part of it, maybe miles away, is strictly business? Reconfiguring to reduce consumerism might be close to impossible in developed countries.

Ah, more ramblings from the reconstructed chimpanzee!


Natalie ._c-





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