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

Conservatives hold a Darwinian philosophy of life, that of the "rugged pioneer/frontiersman" who can make it on his own without government help or interference.  Those that need help are parasites.  So, there's this Tea Party type at a right-wing rally, protesting BIG GOVERNMENT social programs and intrusion into our lives, carrying a sign which read (appx.):  Keep Your Hands Off Our Medicare!  (Medicare is a BIG GOVERNMENT social program administered by BIG GOVERNMENT.)

So, too funny, but too believable!!!!!  :-)
Hi Tom

I agree critical thinking is a very useful tool. I don’t aim to ‘win’ arguments – just contribute to science based enlightened thinking. I can see that calculated use of critical thinking could assist either. I will have a look for a cheaper book – although I’m wary of buying crap – not always the case – I might have a look in the short introduction series on a number of interesting topics – to give me the basics.

Alright Tom - give us a tip - i'm looking for something well written - i don't want dot points - i want explenations written by someone who really knows their stuff - I want high quality for around $20 australian or less... I don't want some patronising schoolish type book that is simply a waste of time and money - it's about the author, and I don't know any of them so i'm quite lost for ideas of which one to buy. I'm going book depository because they have free world wide postage and they are generally cheap. Would love any help you can offer.... : )
Jim – I can’t see the greatness of your nation in the way that you do – I hear stories about poverty and a widening gap between poor and rich, and violence – as well as the perpetual myth that is in almost every movie, video game etc produced – the good vs evil plot.

I admire countries such as Holland, Norway and Sweden – not America.

How can you say that the US leads the world financially when the economy depends on slave labour in 3rd world countries and a percentage of your local residents live in poverty without health care???

I’m not sure if you equate financial leadership with success – but that’s not my value of success.

I disagree that our economic model is useful or successful at all. It encourages us to buy crap just to keep the economy going. It has nothing to do with meeting basic needs and everything to do with greedy middle men who wish to profit on slave labour and consumerism.

But I don’t understand all of your argument and so would be interested to hear more details of your position… : )
I mostly see it as great potential and foundation ... horrible execution.

I must admit to not personally having studied or been educated about the American foundation - but I have heard many reports from people I trust that it was indeed a good plan to start with - perhaps like a good friend of mine has said - it was intelligent people seriously overestimating the ability of others to live up to such ideals.


Which kind of leaves me thinking that idealism isn’t good for much.  We must do what works, not try to create a system that would work if only humans were ‘better’.  Humans are not better – they are greedy, violent, vain, arrogant and so on…  the system that will work, will be a system that accepts humans for what they are both good and bad – for our kindness, cooperation, compassion, values of sharing and being fair, as well as our negative traits.

Hi Natalie,

Evolution is not random – it can be genetic and it comes out, when there is lacking nutrition to support proper growth. When everything is in the right balance nutritionally, then it’s remains dormant or is lost in the genes. I don’t know fully how gene selection takes place – but it’s not random. It is environmental. On looking at what different Indigenous groups ate to support successful whole babies they ate things like cods liver, fish eggs and other special foods eaten by young couples wanting to conceive. Diet is also something passed down and so it is also more likely to appear in subsequent generations.

I would strongly contest that your friends are well-nourished middle and upper-class Americans. They don’t eat an Indigenous diet – do they eat natural vitamins, or ones in a packet? Do they eat fish eggs or cods liver or raw milk or fermented milk or fermented vegetables or soaked grains?

It’s my belief that our current highly processed food diet isn’t healthful at all. I don’t know what is totally healthful for any individual, but I trust that looking to what worked traditionally for Indigenous people’s would give us a good start. Humans have been selected on the diet they were on and the fittest and most adapted survived. We haven’t changed too much in the last few hundred years, and yet our diets have dramatically. Eating canned food, highly refined and processed foods, mass produced foods with synthetic fertilizers.

I feel sad when I hear that you have health troubles and you take pills, because I value good health and I would like for you to have it as a fellow human being. I was diagnosed with Antiphospholipid antibodies a couple of years ago, and was told I needed to take warfarin, and heparin and aspirin to get through pregnancy – I did lots of research, totally changed my diet, more in line with a palaeo diet with the additional of giving my gut flora a work over, and ate lots of gelatin rich bone broth to heal and seal my gut lining – then after more research I took 5 g fish oil per day and 20 billion probiotic as well as fermented foods and carried a baby to full term.

I do agree with your basic premise that we need to care for people – but I think pills aren’t the best solution and other strategies should be implemented for ethical reasons first. Prevention is better than cure. If we can make sure potential parents, pregnant and lactating mothers, and children get adequate nutrition then that is our best effort to prevent having to make choices later on about what to do about it.

Alice, maybe I'm misinterpreting you, but birth defects and illnesses have been around forever, including among Paleolithic and indigenous peoples. It is true that contagious diseases became epidemic only when people started to live in large groups after the agricultural revolution, because when people lived in small bands, a disease might get started but then died out for lack of new victims. Sometimes taking the whole tribe with it. It's also true that victims of congenital defects probably didn't live very long, unless the defect was minor. You see high infant mortality in animals living in the wild, some of which is due to genetic defects, but the mothers usually eat them, because they simply die. How could we believe humans are any different, except that we don't eat our defective babies, but try to save them?

My diabetes, and hypothyroidism are due to an auto-immune attack by my own body. I MUST have pills for the thyroid, and insulin for the diabetes. Diabetes was documented over 3000 years ago in India, even though they didn't know the cause of it, and again in Egypt very soon afterward. It's really NOT nutrition related -- they have identified genetic markers that show if someone is predisposed to autoimmune disease. They don't know what triggers it, but studies have been done on cow's milk, for example, and come up negative time after time. It may be a virus, but again, no one knows. But Type 1 diabetes can hit at any time during an individual's life, and occurs everywhere. The only difference is that when African children, for example, develop it, they always die, because their parents cannot afford insulin. Nutrition just doesn't help.

And diabetes is just one example. Health is MUCH more complicated than just nutrition. All of us have slightly different metabolisms, and immune systems, and even respond to food differently. For example, an insulin-resistant diabetic (usually Type 2) does MUCH better on a low-carb diet -- eliminating pretty much all dairy, sugars and starches, whereas an insulin-sensitive one (usually Type 1) can eat more carbs. But not too many, because injected insulin can only do so much. Insulin-sensitive NON-diabetics also can do well on vegetarian diets that contain a lot of carbs, while insulin-resistant non-diabetics just gain weight on such a diet. And yes, I'm bringing nutrition into my discussion, but only to show that one size doesn't fit all! :-)

I would like nothing better than for all of us to be healthy, but in my case, I simply cannot do it without replacing my missing hormones, and regulating my errant heartbeat, and if that means taking pills and shots, then so be it!


I don’t know much about diabetes. I was aware that it was autoimmune.

I’ve read a bit out gut flora, diet, immune function and brain chemistry and how they interlink in bio chemistry.

I have an autoimmune disorder of the blood. On researching it, I found that my immune system attacks phospholipids – those things that carry proteins and fats in my blood. They make the blood clot more easily and can lead to stroke, heart attack, thrombosis etc. So why does my immune system attack the phospholipids? I have a theory, that on a mad research 3 months session I came to understand. I don’t have all the links to resources now – but I remember the theory. Basically I was brought up vegetarian and ate lots of carbs, fruit and veg. The basic idea about the autoimmunity is that gluten and pathogenic gut flora can eat holes into the gut wall. Through these holes toxins from pathogens and also undigested foods get ‘leak’ out of the gut into the blood system. The theory goes that undigested long protein chains were leaking into the blood system – and unrecognisable to my immune system – started to create Antiphospholipid antibodies that indiscriminately target phospholipids – although it may be more targeted than that – I don’t know.

So basically the solution was thus

1. Change diet from vegan to palaeo – eating short protein foods that didn’t need as much digesting and therefore wouldn’t trigger the autoimmunity if leaking into the blood system.
2. Heal and seal the gut lining – with gelatine rich bone broths
3. Remove the cause of the leaky gut – remove gluten from the diet and also pathogens that might take root in the gut lining such as Candida

This last one is way more complex. First we have to starve out the pathogens by stopping eating foods that will putrefy in our guts. Eat less fibre and sugar that feeds pathogens – such as peel, carbs, sugar and refined foods. Eat foods that are pre-digested – such as yogurt or other fermented foods. Eat foods that are enzyme rich such as fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and raw vegetables.

My health has improved dramatically in ways that I didn’t even know where possible. Thus after having this personal experience, guided mainly by a Dr called Natasha Campbell-McBride, I am convinced about the dietary effects on health.

I agree health is complex. Life is complex. But nutrition can give us way more chance at well-being than white pills. Not that I wouldn’t ever take them or advocate taking them – there are instances where they are essential to quality and extension of life for some people – but they are WAY over used to the detriment of all in society. And I’m very suspicious of the pharmaceutical industries financial motivations for promoting their products in our consumer society.

I went to the doctor the other day to get my heart checked. I’ve been having some chest pain on and off and was concerned due to my history. He checked my heart with ECG and it was fine. That’s all I needed to know. But then because he wanted to eliminate all the possibilities he proscribed me with 2 weeks worth of antacid pills. How unnecessary. I would much rather just refrain from eating so much cheese before going to bed – than DRY UP MY ACID PRODUCING GLANDS!!! I mean is this guy insane? I need that to digest my food. No he’s not insane, he is a normal every day doctor of medicine, carrying out his public duty. And what does that entail? Giving out way to many drugs to people who could simply alleviate their mild and non life threatening symptoms more easily with a few lifestyle adjustments – rather than mucking about with an essentially perfectly healthy body.

I agree that nature is not perfect and there are accidents all the time – such as club food and cleft lip and so on. I disagree though that it’s not triggered environmentally through diet of parents on conception. There have been historically tests done on animals – see Nutritional and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price – that show that lack of certain vitamins a crucial times during pre conception and conception and early weeks of pregnancy DO effect outcomes – we are that sensitive. It’s not just a matter of hit and miss – its about the exact circumstances of conception that allow for genes to be passed on or not, switched on or not. Natural selection is not random, it’s entirely causal.

Interesting theory about leaky gut -- I've heard of it before, but don't really know much about it.

The theory behind Type 1 diabetes is that a person is born with the susceptibility to it; there are specific HLA genes that have been tied to it, but it takes a trigger to actually cause the auto-immune attack. Nobody knows what that trigger is, though. Once upon a time, they thought it was cow's milk in infancy, but that has been disproven several times. Breast-fed babies get Type 1, too. They also thought it was the Coxsackie virus, too, but they have never been able to prove that, either. So, it remains unknown. Some Type 1 mothers are keeping their babies gluten-free for the first year in the hopes of preventing Type 1, but whether that will work or not remains to be seen.

About stomach acid. GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) is caused by a weak sphincter muscle between the stomach and esophagus, allowing partially digested food and acid to back up into the esophagus. There is no happy answer to this problem. I hope it's not what was really causing your chest pain, and I also hope it wasn't coronary artery spasms! But anyway, there is a surgery for intractable esophageal reflux, which wraps part of the stomach around the bottom of the esophagus, but it takes away your ability to belch, which sounds unpleasant to me! I have severe GERD, which means that unless I take proton pump inhibitors, I have severe pain 24/7. For me, it's not just eliminating cheese, or not going to bed until my dinner has digested. It's a quality of life issue, and because I don't want to bother with the surgery, then PPI's are the only thing that relieves the pain. Which is why I say there is no happy answer.

I don't understand what you mean when you say natural selection is causal. The evidence that some malformations are due to malnutrition, such as spina bifida rates being reduced when the mothers' diets are enriched in folate is not natural selection. It's a very specific result of a specific  nutritional deficiency. Natural selection, on the other hand, means congenital mutations in genes, which are not influenced by maternal diet or anything else -- they just spring up and are usually deleterious, and every once in a while advantageous. Inherited defects are simply that, and the difference between us and animals is that we can repair many defects that would have been fatal if left to nature. So we are defeating natural selection in a way -- allowing babies to live and grow to reproduce and pass on hereditary defects that would have been weeded out in nature. Not that I'm advocating letting these infants die, but it's one of the reasons why I think we are circumventing human evolution!

Roman – the irony!  Do these conservatives see their own self-contradiction?  Do they generally support getting rid of health care?  They seem to here in Australia – but then they like also historically, to give out chunks of money to motivate people to have more children… who knows what goes on in their little heads…




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