What is wrong, and why we can’t seem to fix it

Throughout most of my life I have been living under conservative governments, and the nicest way I can find to describe political conservatism is to say that it embodies the popular phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. However, as we all know there are many things wrong at present, and they need fixing. No amount of ignoring them will make them go away. This blog is about those awkward facts of world that won’t go away and which political conservatism won’t make go away either.

What I’m going to aim to do is post a blog once a week, on a Friday, so you can digest it over the weekend. The next week’s blog will either be the next in my series, or a discussion of issues that have arisen from the comments.

I’m going to have a very strict comments policy, comment will only be accepted if they are intelligent and polite contributions to discussion around the topic of the post. Everything else will be moderated.

If you find a blog here sympathetic, you might consider reading the blogs from the beginning, as they are supposed to be a more or less continuous argument.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Summary of the Blogs So Far

In these blogs I have been outlining the problems facing humanity, possible solutions, and impediments. I intended to blog in weekly posts for one year, and we are nearly half-way through!

I started from the premise that beyond immediate survival our only goal should be to try to ensure that nothing we leave to the next generations can stand in the way of long-term human survival. I have mentioned 30,000 generations of human residence (one million years) on the earth as something to have regard for; so far we have had only around 2066 generations, so we have some way to go.

I then talked about global warming and opined that if we couldn’t even get stuck into solutions for this then it wasn’t looking good for the next problem: global ecological overreach. Global warming isn’t just an isolated problem, it’s symptom of a much bigger problem, the inconvenient truth that we are using 150% of the planet’s resources annually. This means that, as with someone overspending their income, eventually this spending will catch up with us, even though it appears that we can get away with it in short-term.

Funnily enough, conservatives, who are supposed to be very concerned with people living within their means and not getting into debt, are ignoring this enormous and obvious profligacy.

I then argued that the key variable in getting this over-consumption back into sustainable territory is population. Although every effective measure to make our energy- and resource use more efficient should be taken, without a decline in population this will still not be enough. I suggested a global population of around a billion people living high-technology lives was a sustainable long-term figure and an equitable goal. A billion people alive at any one time would make it more likely that humanity would survive long-term and that many more people would eventually live than is likely under the high-population, high-vulnerability state we are currently in.

I did not commit to how this population decline might be achieved globally, but I then went on to talk about how Australia could act as an example by introducing social policies to encourage the birth-rate to decline and to restrict immigration to the same end.

The next blogs dealt with problems in Australia that prevent us from dealing with the our problems and acknowledging ecological overreach as the key issue. These included our terrible media and our dysfunctional political system. I suggested we need in Australia to abolish the states (introducing regional government areas based on eco-regions) and bring in proportional representation as a way of overcoming the shortcomings of our political system. I also opined that the involvement of citizens’ panels in all areas could revitalise people’s involvement with society’s institutions.

I then listed 10 impediments that stood in the way of recognising our ecological shortcomings and the shortcomings of our political and social institutions (the last 11 posts):
  1. Work—the fixation with controlling people’s time and insisting that people have to be sitting in a particular spot for 8 or more hours a days in order to be seen to be working;
  2. The Arts—the illusion that if we have an ‘arts industry’ we are somehow dealing with our problems;
  3. Education—our education system leaves us uneducated;
  4. Government/Private Sector—the false dichotomy that sees these two sectors in opposition and the private sector as being preferable;
  5. Bad Religion—Christianity a bad religion because it is basically not true and distorts people’s attitudes to life, leaving them unable to live in the world;
  6. Bad Religion—couldn’t help myself going on about this for another week;
  7. Conservatism—the malign political philosophy that conserves nothing;
  8. Liberalism—selfishness as a political philosophy;
  9. Growth—our obsession with economic and population growth blinds us to the fact that growth is killing our life-support systems;
  10. Status—the human propensity to seek status in social interactions has become fatally intertwined with economic growth;
  11. Children—as a result of a poor education system we are largely raising children with no sense of ‘being in the world’ and being in society, and consequently liberalism, conservatism and other mental illnesses are perpetuated from generation to generation.
Where to from here? Next week I’m going to sketch a worse case scenario for the future, then the week after a better case scenario, then I will let the cat out of the bag and, having talked previously about Bad Religion, I will talk about good religion.

Then, after this high level, the blogs will descend to a series of whinges about this, that and the other. I have listed various impediments to our living sensibly and dealing with out problems sensibly; these blogs will dwell upon various consequences of these impediments. Sometimes, living in modernity feels like someone has read the Book of Living Well, and then gone and designed society and daily life in direct contradiction to the precepts of that (unwritten) book.

Keep reading.

Next Week: Worst Case Scenario

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