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May-04-2010 18:16printcomments

Climate Change Smoke and Mirrors

Sustainability and our current society are incompatible.

Smoke and mirrors
Courtesy: CalPatty Press

(GOLD RIVER, B.C.) - Are you tired of all of the endless chatter about climate change? Me too. With the exception of the odd catastrophic oil spill or a plague of sea lice here and there, most of the energy being spent on environment issues these days seems to center on the changing climate and global warming.

The climate surely is changing, and records do indicate we are having warmer years, only the most die hard denialist with their head firmly in the sand would advocate otherwise. The real area of debate is about cause, more specifically about whether or how much the change is the result of human activity.

Quite frankly, whether should not even be debatable. To what extent is certainly open to investigation, but logic alone tells us that human activity does have an effect on the climate. And, one can argue that the more humans there are, the more effect they will have. What should bother us about this, however, is that the climate problem is not the main problem.

It is only a symptom of a much more serious one. A suspicious mind would say that all of this attention being given to climate change, and all of the green speak starting to come from the mouths of egregious corporate polluters and their government toadies, is an intentional smoke and mirrors production to divert attention away from the real issue.

The issue that should be foremost on our minds and in our discussions is the fact that we are consuming the ability of the planet to support us.

We have been doing so since the last century, and every year we add more people to make demands on an already overburdened system. These demands that we make are the cause of much that is wrong with our environment.

Everything that we do that is beyond the capacity of the environment to repair quickly enough to neutralize our impact is doing too much as it degrades the system that we depend on for our long term survival.

So, why are we wasting time on climate change when there is a much bigger issue that needs to be resolved? It is simple, we have built a society on growth and consumption, and it can not survive a switch to a rational and environmentally sensible one based on stasis with a balance between demands and replenishments.

An environmentally stable society is incompatible with any system, such as our economic system, based on growth and accumulation, and those who control the system know it.

Those who control the system also have the most influence in the dispersal of information, the content of entertainment, and the direction of education.

All are used to set common reference points and to channel debate into the least threatening areas possible.

A very threatening term is sustainability if one understands it and takes it seriously. Sustainable means that you take no more from the system than it can continually replace. This is not something compatible with continual growth, since it recognizes limits. So, it is a term that the system seeks to coopt.

On Earth Day the BC Minister of Citizen's Services published an editorial claiming that the government "walks the talk on sustainability."

He talks about the government being a leader in making greener choices and striving towards carbon neutrality. It is a warm and fuzzy piece for the gullible, meant to redirect the understanding of sustainable to suit the system rather than scientific reality. Sustainability is not really about greener choices, it is not about carbon neutrality. Sustainability is about balance, and in a world so out of balance on the consumption side, it is about consuming less, not so much about better choices as about choosing to do less of everything, not about a growing economy, but about a shrinking one, not about more efficient production, but about less production. Sustainability and our current society are incompatible. The vested interests in that society will divert our focus as far from it as possible.


Jerry West grew up on a farm in Fresno County, California, and served with the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 including 19 months in Vietnam with the Third Marine Division, and three years at MCAS Iwakuni where he became an anti-war organizer in 1970. He earned an Honors Degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, and did two years of graduate study there. While in university he worked seasonally in fire and law enforcement with the US Forest Service.

After university he worked for a number of years in the international tour industry in operations and management before moving to a remote village on the west coast of Vancouver Island where he is currently the editor and publisher of The Record newspaper serving the Nootka Sound region. He is a Past President of the Northern California Land Trust, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

You can email Jerry West, Writer, at:

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Jerry West May 5, 2010 11:03 am (Pacific time)

"Jerry what you are essentially saying if I read this article right is that we need to reduce our consumption asap, and the quickest way to do that is through population control, correct?"
Not necessarily. The quickest way would be to stop consuming so much, reducing population could be a part of that, but any quick way of reducing population is outside the pale.
The whole world could be sustainable right now if everyone in the two thirds of the global population that is over consuming cut back to the consumption level of Uzebekistan and Jordan. That would be over an 80% reduction on average for the population of the USA.
If we wish to have a higher sustainable global consumption average than that of those two countries, then the only way to achieve it is through population reduction, and that will take time if done humanely.
I, too, doubt if this will end well, particularly if we try to maintain the current socio-economic system which is based on greed and growth.

Roger von B├╝tow May 5, 2010 6:57 am (Pacific time)

GLOBAL CONSUMERISM plus OVERPOPULATION equals CHAOS. Strikes 1 and 2? The only two products that America has successfully exported recently are consumerism and greed. Strike 3? The Pope and other male chauvinist religious leaders make sure that their pyramid scheme corporations get more future customers and coffers fluffed by opposing birth control. When you have a lifeboat with limited rations and keep dragging more bodies aboard eventually the crew either becomes cannibalistic and mutinies or just wastes away. Game over?

JC May 4, 2010 6:35 pm (Pacific time)

Jerry what you are essentially saying if I read this article right is that we need to reduce our consumption asap, and the quickest way to do that is through population control, correct? Since much of the world's cultures are about having large families, it's unlikely the 3rd world will ever stop consuming more unless they have something happen that would interupt their high birthrates. Here in the states when 3rd worlders move here many of them continue to have very large families, so you have some ideas on how to reduce consumtion of our resources to get into a balance? The Malthusian Doctrine, or something similar always seems to pop up when our resources become taxed, maybe we have to offer cash bribes to foster a reduced birthrate. Maybe also stop all tax deductions after one child? I guess one could start brainstorming many ideas, but you will end up hitting a wall because of cultural and religous norms. This will not end well I'm afraid. Maybe a culling disease will promulgate a reduction?

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