Sustainability, the Myth of Growth and Ethical Eating (2019)

Lecture (2) to University of Queensland postgraduate course PHIL7221 Environmental Philosophy, 15 October 2019
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  10/15/20191 PHIL2210 Environmental Philosophy 15 October 2019 Lecture 2William Grey Philosophy School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry University of Queensland Lecture 2–Tue 15 Oct •In this lecture I will  –Unpack the idea of sustainability and its requirements –Discuss populationand growth –Consider ethics and eating •We confront problems which are not just complex, but "wicked" Oct 201923 Perfect Storms and Wicked Problems •A perfect storm is one where a confluence of causal factors synergistically produce a significantly worse outcome that would have been produced by any of the factors acting alone•Wicked problems are ones for which there is no clear or neat solution  –they are divergent rather than convergent –their "solutions" typically generate further (often worse) problems •Sevareid'sLaw: "The chief source of problems is solutions" (Eric Sevareid, CBS News, 29 December 1970)•H.L. Mencken: "For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong" The human future •At the beginning of the 21st century industrial civilization is on trajectories which are unsustainable•Problems for industrial civilization include  –Climate change (fossil carbon emissions) •Extreme weather events (storms, fires, droughts)•Sea level rise; ocean acidification (blocks calcification)•Viruses and infectious diseases  –Water •fossil water depletion•ice field depletion (Himalayas, Greenland, Polar ice)  –Biodiversity Loss –Topsoil depletion and sustaining agriculture –Toxic waste; ozone depletion –Social exploitation (social and global justice) •All of these problems are exacerbated by a global human population spiking up towards 10 billion A sustainable future •These environmental problems raise important ethical (and political, economic and scientific) questions which are (or should be) of vital concern to everyone•A central conviction of anyone seriously concerned about the environment is that we should try to create a sustainable future•It's not too late to create a sustainable future —but the longer we delay the harder the task will become Our choices create the future •There is no such thing as " the future"•My own (anti-realist) conception of the future isn't a predetermined (or determinate) destination towards which we travel•The future is a (complex, collective) creation or invention which we make up as we go along•There are many possible futures (individual and collective), some wonderful, some diabolical —and it's up to us to construct afuture through our decisions and creative choices•Which of the (uncountably) many possible futures will be realised will be the result of our individual and collective choices and behaviours —especially the ones we make over the next few years or decades•We are shaping not just the human future, but the future of the planet 6  10/15/20192 Sustainability • Sustainability — Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of  future generations to meet their needs (Brundtland1987) •This presupposes a time scale, about which Brundtlandis vague. It should cover many human generations, and so include centuries •Growth is not sustainable  –simple arithmetic shows that steady (exponential) growth results in enormous changes in modest periods of time –e.g. a population of 10 000 growing at 7% per annum would reach 10 million in 100 years •"Sustainable growth" is an oxymoron•"Smart" growth and "managed" growth are also unsustainable  – "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist" (Kenneth Boulding) –" Growth is the disease for which it pretends to be the cure " (William Grey, with apologies to Karl Kraus) 7 How could we create an unsustainable future •Encourage rapid population growth•Increase consumption per person•Deplete non-renewable mineral resources, e.g. oil•Over-exploit fisheries, forests, water •Disrupt climate•Reduce biodiversity and ecological services•Develop an economy based on growth•Widen inequality•Accept aggregate economic exchange (GDP) as the measure of individual and social well-being 8 Slide credit: Ian Lowe Al Bartlett's Laws of Sustainability • First Law of Sustainability Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained  • Second Law of Sustainability The larger the population of a society and/or the larger its rates of consumption of resources, the more difficult it will be to transform the society to a condition of sustainability  Modern [industrial] agriculture is the use of land to convert  petroleum into food   –Bartlett The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function  –Bartlett,  Arithmetic, Population, Energy  •Traditional agriculture produced food with metabolic energy (human and non-human), and solar energy •Industrial agriculture changed the rules by substantially replacing solar (and metabolic) energy with fossil carbon—fossil carbon is also used for making fertilisersand pesticides  – Modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum into food  (Al Bartlett)  –And industrial agriculture is now using of land to convert food into petroleum! (biodiesel and other biofuels) •Industrial agriculture is not sustainable•Fossil carbon (of course) is also solar energy (bottled sunshine) but unlike sunlight it is a resource which is finite and non-renewable —so we’ll have to stop using it anyway•The sooner the better, because our large-scale industrial geo-engineering experiment is producing hazardous changes to atmospheric and ocean chemistry, and to the heat storage capacity of the complex climate system 10 Fossilfuelshelpedustofightwarsofahorrornever contemplatedbefore,buttheyalsoreducedtheneedfor war.Forthefirsttimeinhumanhistory—indeedforthefirst timeinbiologicalhistory—therewasasurplusofavailableenergy.Wecouldsurvivewithouthavingtofightsomeone fortheresourcesweneeded.Ourfreedoms,ourcomforts,ourprosperityarealltheproductsoffossilcarbon,whosecombustioncreatesthegascarbondioxide,whichis primarilyresponsibleforglobalwarming.Oursarethemostfortunategenerationsthathaveeverlived.Oursmightalsobethemostfortunategenerationsthateverwill Weinhabitthebriefhistoricalinterludebetweenecological constraintandecologicalcatastrophe. George Monbiot, Heat  , 2007, p. xxi Resource privilege We may if we fail to act prudently turn out to inhabit the brief historical interlude between ecological constraint and ecological catastrophe.  Après nous le déluge?  •Future generations may not be so lucky. Fossil carbon carries substantial risks and costs —its current rate of release at levels well above the planet’s carbon sink capacity is changing the heat storage capacity of the atmosphere, the acidity of the oceans, and risks destabilizing the mild interglacial climate that has prevailed for the last 10,000 years (the "holocene", now often rebadged the "anthropocene") —which made agriculture and human civilization possible)•We live prosperously (well, many of us do) by treating the atmosphere as an open sewer•Donald Brown (Penn State University) has argued that corporate-sponsored disinformation about the consequences of treating the atmosphere as an open sewer may constitute a crime against humanity  10/15/20193 Tipping points • Global climate is near critical tipping points that could lead to loss of all summer sea ice in the Arctic with detrimental effects on wildlife, initiation of ice sheet disintegration in West Antarctica and Greenland with progressive, unstoppable global sea level rise, shifting of climatic zones with extermination of many animal and plant species, reduction of freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people, and a more intense hydrologic cycle with stronger droughts and forest fires, but also heavier rains and floods, and stronger storms driven by latent heat, including tropical storms, tornados and thunderstorms  –James Hansen, US climate scientist and chief scientist of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Research The climate is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks —Wallace ("Wally") Broecker(1931-2019)Newberry Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University 14Oct 201915 You have to go back at least 15 million years to find carbon dioxide levels on Earth as high as they are today. Science Daily  , Oct. 9, 2009 Photo courtesy Peter Essick/National Geographic Society Male, capital of the Maldives Population 55,000 Maximum elevation 2.45 metres16 Fig. 2. Global temperature relative to 1880-1920 in (A) past 5,300,000 years and (B) past 800,000 years. (Hansen, J.E. and Sato, M., Berger, A., Mesinger, F., and Sijacki, D., 2012: Paleoclimateimplications for human-made climate change. . Springer, ~350 pp.) Slide credit: James Hansen, Columbia University 1718 Earth Exploration Toolbook  ,  Awarded Science Magazine's Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE), September 30, 2011  10/15/20194 Graph of net carbon emissions into the atmosphere from Scientific American, June 29, 2011 19 M King Hubbert Hubbert ’ s Peak Consumption of fossil fuels—a long-term perspectivePeak Oil is named “Hubbert’s Peak” after Shell geophysicist Dr M King Hubbert (1903-1989) •In 1949 Hubbert predicted that the fossil fuel era would be of short duration •In 1956 Hubbert accurately predicted that US domestic oil production would peak in 1970Hubbert also predicted global production would peak around the year 2000, which it would have if the politically created oil shocks of the 1970s hadn’t delayed it for about 5-10 years We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It's unique to both human and geologic history. It has never happened before and it can't possibly happen again. You can only use oil once. You can only use metals once. Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered  --M King Hubbert “ What on earth can we doabout Hubbert ’ s Pimple? ” According to Hubbert this is not necessarily a catastrophe: we have the necessary technology. All we have to do is completely overhaul our culture and find an alternative to money (Was he a utopian rather than a pessimist?) “Humanity already  possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problems for the next half-century.” Stephen Pacalaand Robert Socolow Science , August 13, 2004 Professors Socolow and PacalaPhoto: Princeton Bulletin Professors Socolow and Pacala led the team of scientists that identified 15 existing technologies that could help solve the global warming problem. The drivers of unsustainable development IPAT and ImPAcT •“IPAT” is shorthand for a formula, first proposed in the 1970s by the Ehrlichsand Holdren(in a dispute with Commoner), that is widely used in discussing human environmental impacts:• I mpact= P opulation × A ffluence × T echnology•In the IPAT formula, the population sets the scale of the overall environmental impact, which is modified by changing patterns of affluence and technology.  –Ehrlich, Ehrlich and Holdren, Human Ecology (1973) • Population • Consumption per person • Destructive technologies Sustained by societal values 23 Thermodynamic constraints •Our challenge is live within an energy envelope which maintains the thermal equilibrium of the planet at a level that isn't hostile to human agriculture and (hence) civilization•Climate scientists express this as the 2˚C "guardrail"—the temperature increase which (they hope) can be accommodated without causing catastrophic climate change (some argue that a 2˚C guardrail is too risky—see Bill McKibben,•There is a carbon constraint—determined by the laws of physics and chemistry—to be respected if life (as we know it) is to be sustainable•If resources are to be equitably shared, then the larger the human population the smaller the  per capita energy entitlement 24  10/15/20195 Global carbon budget •To limit carbon pollution to keep temperature increase to 2˚C, we should aim to keep our total fossil carbon emissions below 1000GT (one thousand billion tonnes): 2011 emissions = ~ 510GT•This carbon constraint means that, if we allow an entitlement for everyone to live a better-than-subsistence lifestyle, the smaller the population, the greater the scope for living well  –Fewer human feet permit larger environmental footprints •Destructive technologies need to be eliminated, or moderated, but sustainability cannot be achieved if we neglect the issue of population•The neglect of population in discussing sustainability and environmental problems may be because of an unfortunate association with eugenics and racism •That makes it a tricky topic: it is "the elephant in the room" 25 Population limits: the dismal parson •Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) famously proposed the existence of planetary limits in 1798 in his Essay on the Principle of Population •He was wrong when the population doubled from 750 million to 1.5 billion (1750-1890)•He was wrong when the population doubled from 1.5 billion to 3 billion (1890-1960) •He was wrong when the population doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion (1960-2000)•But will Malthus still be wrong 50 years from now? 26 0123456        B       i       l       l       i     o     n     s 160,000B.C.100,000B.C.10,000B.C.7,000B.C.6,000B.C.5,000B.C.4,000B.C.3,000B.C.2,000B.C.1,000B.C.1 A.D.1,000 A.D.2,000 A.D.World Population 89 Population Growth Throughout History 7 2,150 A.D.2006 –6.5 Billion1945 –2.3 Billion 2050 –9.1 Billion 250 Million250 Million1492  –500 Million1776 –1 BillionFirst Modern HumansFirst Modern Humans( Adam and Eve)( Adam and Eve) Source: United Nations World population is increasing at 1.3% per year(actually according to Wiki it was 1.1% in 2018)If this were to continue the world population will reach a density of one person per square metre of the dry land surface of the earth in 780 yearsThe mass of people would equal the mass of the earth in 2400 years  Zero Population Growth will happen (That is, the number of deaths will be equal to, or greater than, the number of births)The only question is: HOW?  Increase PopulationDecrease/Stabilise Population Procreation Motherhood Large families ImmigrationMedicinePublic HealthSanitation Peace Law and order Scientific Agriculture  Accident Prevention Clean Air Ignorance of the problem  AbstentionContraception/AbortionSmall FamiliesRestricting immigrationDiseaseWar Murder/ViolenceFamine AccidentsPollution (Smoking)Education (especially women)Source: Al Bartlett  Arithmetic, Population, Energy  ••••••• Increase PopulationDecrease/Stabilise Population Procreation Motherhood Large families ImmigrationMedicinePublic HealthSanitation Peace Law and order Scientific Agriculture  Accident Prevention Clean Air Ignorance of the problem  Abstention Contraception /  Abortion Small Families Restricting immigrationDiseaseWar Murder/ViolenceFamine AccidentsPollution (Smoking) Education (especially women) Source: Al Bartlett  Arithmetic, Population, Energy  •••••••
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