Friday, March 16, 2007


Jared Diamond on Eco-suicide:

"Failed civilizations share five common characteristics, according to Diamond, including environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, shifting trade patterns, and a shortsighted or greedy leadership response to the threat.

Not every collapse has an environmental origin, but an "eco-meltdown"-especially de-forestation- is often the primary culprit, he argues, particularly when combined with societal disregard for the coming disaster.

"The typical pattern starts with population growth, leading to intensified agricultural production and ecological damage," he said. "The agricultural practices become unsustainable, leading to shortages and starvation, wars and civil unrest, and ultimately to collapse."...

"These are societies that have come to success by right thought and action," according to Diamond. "They are sensible stewards of the environment."

What lessons does Diamond want us to draw from these case studies?

First we must take environmental problems seriously. Ecological suicide has replaced nuclear holocaust as the biggest threat to global civilization, according to Diamond. Second, society needs to move beyond the "either-or" mind set of the environment vs. the economy. Saving the environment does not need to be a "luxury". The deferred maintenance on New Orleans' levee system serves as a notorious reminder that fixing environmental problems early on is cheaper than waiting until after a disaster.

Finally, Diamond said he believes that the notion of the collective good must be re-calibrated. The rights of the individual property owner are indeed important, they but can be taken too far. He speculated bemusedly that the owner of the last tree on Easter Island must have been a libertarian.

Here in the United States, he's particularly concerned about the trend in his home city of Los Angeles toward gated communities of private security, bottled water, private schools, private pension plans, and private health insurance. He'd like the residents of the U.S. to be more like those of the Netherlands, where rich and poor alike live below sea level-a situation which creates a shared appreciation of common risks....


The people leading our country - the Republicans and the leaders of the rightwing Christians have been promoting greed, consumption and have an anti-environmental attitude. When some of the evangelicals came out in favor of environmental protections - they were considered to be traitors. It's very important to some Christians (esp. the literal variety) to think that humans have been given divine authority over the planet. Unfortunately they take it so far - that they will be left without a planet that is sustainable to people. If other life is considered then those lives are seen as competitive against humans - whether it's owls taking away jobs, forests taking away opportunities or whathaveyou.

Both the neoconservative Republicans and rightwing Christians like to promote consumption including the idea that "good" people can and should consume more than other people. And both groups are against birth control - which would be important for bringing any kind of solution. That idea seems to go along with the idea that people can and should be considered to be more important than other life forms. That is also taken to the extreme that other life forms and resources are not being given even the consideration people will require so as to sustain ourselves .

I think the neoconservative Republicans and rightwing Christians are living in some kind of Disney-like fantasyland built on greed and a blindness to the needs of interconnected life among plants and animals. I don't think it is at all a coincidence that in response some people have been returning to a worldview based on "Mother Earth", goddess thealogy, and a return to pre-patriarchal ideas.

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