by Derek J.Wilson
first written October 2005
finalised January 2011
Im going back a little way to January 1925 to my first clear recollections of life on this Planet. I found myself on a pile of bedding beside my Mum, who was nursing my two-weeks old sister, on the back of a large wagon surrounded by our worldly goods, all being drawn by six magnificent draught horses driven by a burly teamster, with Dad riding one of his horses alongside. We were wending the last ten miles of our journey which was mainly along the bed of the Awhea River to Tora Station, a large sheep station on the East Coast of the Wairarapa about 30 miles from Martinborough, where my Father had been appointed manager.
Looking back on that period my childhood before going to boarding school I now realize what an extraordinarily rich time it was. We three children (a brother arrived nearly two years after we did at Tora) got rid of governesses at the rate of about one a term. We made first-class crayfishing spears from No 8 fencing wire, and endless roads and crossings in the creek bed near the homestead. Our fleet of tip trucks, each about two feet long, was all hand built too. Give me that instead of video games and exboxes any day or have I got it all wrong? What we learnt above all else was the power and fundamental importance of Nature, of Mother Earth with her day and night, her soil and water and air as our support system, something which has not diminished with time. I retired in 1987 at the age of 65 (as was customary at the time) from my architectural partnership with Bill Toomath, Don Irvine and Graham Anderson, although architects never retire, since when, having become increasingly concerned with the direction our civilization is travelling, Ive been researching and writing about our major global problems. Much of my findings was summed up with the publication in 2001 of a weighty tome Five Holocausts: Militarism, Human Oppression, Economic Destitution, The Population Explosion, Environmental Destruction described by Edward Goldsmith, founder of the Ecologist, UK, as an extremely valuable source book, full of interesting material that has rarely been gathered together in so accessible form. Originally the book was sixteen chapters long. Publishers thought I was a proper nutter so it was reduced to its present length. Copies at $25 are still available from the author.
We could examine any one of an already long and ever-lengthening number of problems the trillions of dollars spent worldwide annually on armaments (The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2009 Yearbook puts the worldwide military expenditure for 2008 at an estimated $1,464 trillion, an increase of 4 per cent since 2007 and 45 percent since 1999), the growing poverty and spreading HIV/Aids, H1N1/Swine Flu epidemics, the fast-approaching energy crisis, climate chaos/global warming, environmental destruction, growing fresh water shortages, the ongoing devastation of the coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean, retreating glaciers, our plastic world, global financial disaster, the continuing controversy over 9/11, the destructive presidency of George W Bush and his neocons and his sick scam about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq you can add your own problems but I keep coming back to the growth syndrome and our destitute economic system from which many of these problems arise. As an aside, Im one of those who believe that some of our civilisation, which in the main has arrogantly cruised along fairly comfortably for 200 years on the back of an industrial revolution of limitless material consumption, has irreparably damaged our vital resources of land, water and air, and that the consequences are now starting to come home to roost with a vengeance. I must agree with Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal in their story of the climate change situation in Poles Apart when they say: The position we reached is that the science of anthropogenic [man-made] global warming is almost impossible to argue with. Prominent Australian writer Clive Hamilton has this to say about climate change:
Over the last five years, almost every advance in climate science has painted a more disturbing picture of the future. The reluctant conclusion of the most eminent climate scientists is that the world is now on a path to a very unpleasant future and it is too late to stop it. Behind the façade of scientific detachment, climate scientists themselves now evince a mood of barely suppressed panic. No one is willing to say publicly what the climate science is telling us: that we can no longer prevent global warming that will this century bring about a radically transformed world that is much more hostile to the survival and flourishing of life. 
It seems obvious to me that unless we can bring about a transition such as we have never before achieved, we shall continue with increasing speed towards the cliff edge. However, there are many who disagree with this view. For obvious reasons, ExxonMobile has spent an estimated $16 million on the denial movement over the past decade.  So I hope this paper will promote some serious thought and discussion. For our sakes and that of our children and grandchildren, take the time to look around.
Let me quote something Daniel Quinn said in the year 2000:
If we continue to consume the world until theres no more to consume, then theres going to come a day, sure as hell, when our children or their children or their childrens children are going to look back on us you and me and say to themselves, My God, what kind of monsters were these people? 
How many of you agree with him? Quinn was merely expressing a view many others have voiced in recent times in various ways.
Take M King Hubbert, probably the worlds most famous and influential geologist. By 1949 he had developed his peak oil theory which he publicly announced in 1956 namely, that 40 years after peak oil discovery comes peak oil production, which is followed by inevitable decline. Hubbert predicted in 1956 that oil in America would peak in 1970. Nobody believed him. It peaked in 1971. According to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, a network of scientists dedicated to studying the date and impact of the peak and decline of world oil and gas production, oil production will peak in 2010, if it has not already peaked, as many scientists believe. The all-time peak of global oil production marks a turning point in recent human history the beginning of the second half of the Oil Age. The arrival of peak oil does not mean that supplies are about to run out, but rather that output can no longer increase. As it is, experts say that today we consume about four to six barrels of oil for each one discovered. Hubbert told us what a mess would follow the peaking of oil production.  He suffered in much the same way as the Italian astronomer Galileo. With his newly invented telescope he proved the 16th century monk Copernicus, who was convinced the Earth revolved around the sun, to be right. Galileo was accused of heresy. The number of eminent internationalists reiterating these truths is now phenomenal.
Working independently of Hubbert in the 1950s was Jay Wright Forrester (the two may not have known each other) who developed a new approach to modelling which he called system dynamics. In the late 1960s Forrester modelled the whole world including specifically Earths resources. His book World Dynamics, a best seller, was published in 1971.
Im sure all of you remember George Orwells Nineteen Eighty Four , published in 1949. On the front of the building where the books main character Winston Smith worked three slogans were hung:
|WAR IS PEACE||FREEDOM IS SLAVERY||IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH|
The Ministry of Truth concerned itself among other things with news and education, The Ministry of Love maintained law and order, The Ministry of Plenty was responsible for economic affairs, The Ministry of Peace was concerned with war. Orwell enriched the English language with a new word Newspeak, a form of the philosophy of doublethink denying external reality and holding that the heresy of heresies was common sense. A key word in Newspeak is blackwhite. Remember the caption BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU? In the year 1984 it was reported in Parade that the US National Security Agency had compiled 6,723 kinds of files on its citizens, containing 3,900 million individual entries (approximately 18 for every man, woman and child)!  This technotyranny  destroys the famous Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which proclaims: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney-General, has said that the audio-visual intrusion capability could soon create a society where no one will know whether his every act is watched, his every word heard We should bear in mind Paul Blaus words: High technology is merely an instrument for making the plundering of our planet more effective.  Orwells imaginative work has become a reality with the United States of America turning into a focus of evil, quite apart from it being one of the most advanced exponents of the growth syndrome. Will President Obama manage to rectify this situation? Visionary economist David Korten assesses Obamas first year in office:
Given what he inherited a devastated economy, record national and foreign debts, a mounting budget deficit, two expensive and unwinnable wars of occupation, Wall Streets corrupting hold on Washington politics, and a take-no-prisoners far right opposition in Congress he merits high marks. 
But Republican opposition is building which coupled with the fact that America and its President are run by big business makes the chance of Obama bringing some sanity to America and the rest of the world extremely unlikely. Many telling works of this period followed Orwells. In 1957 economist Leopold Kohr published The Breakdown of Nations, a scholarly and most important warning which had to wait 40 years for proper recognition.  The next year John Kenneth Galbraith gave us The Affluent Society , and in 1962 came Rachel Carsons Silent Spring, a classic statement which greatly helped a whole movement. Although specifically written about a persistent and continuing poisoning of the whole human environment, Carsons final chapter can now be read in a much broader context.
We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frosts familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth super-highway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The fork in the road the one less traveled by offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our Earth. 
What are the real chances of our civilization, if it is capable of choosing any road, choosing the one less traveled by?
Carson was referring to Frosts 1916 poem, The Road Not Taken, in which he says:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
For her pains, Carson became the subject of a vicious witch-hunt by the Velsicol Chemical Company, manufacturers of DDT, and the Monsanto Chemical Company.
In 1972 John Brunner with his The Sheep Look Up suggested an interesting solution to a part of our dilemma:
We can just about restore the balance of the ecology, the biosphere, and so on in other words we can live within our means instead of on an unrepayable overdraft, as weve been doing for the half century if we exterminate the two hundred million most extravagant and wasteful of our species. 
Henry Kissinger, President Nixons right-hand man as well as many others, had his own outlook on this. Useless eaters he was reported to have called the lesser races to justify their genocide and so prevent dilution of the master (white) bloodlines. For a first hand look at Kissingers (and Nixons) ruthlessness and paranoia read Robert Dalleks Nixon and Kissinger Partners in Power.
Another man of some substance, Lawrence H Summers, who has served as chief economist of the World Bank, US secretary of the treasury, president of Harvard, and as Obamas director of the National Economic Council, also had his own idea about the lesser races. In a 1991 memo to senior WB staff he wrote: Just between you and me, shouldnt the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDC [Less Developed Countries]? Summers justified the economic logic of increasing pollution in the Third World on three grounds.
Kissinger and Summers would have been at home with those in America who supported a vicious campaign against the immigrant Chinese in the mid 19th century to make them return home. What will we western nations do when millions of people, flooded from their countries by natural disasters, extreme poverty, wars and rising sea levels, come knocking at our doors?
Also in 1972 the Ecologist produced its special edition A Blueprint for Survival. But the work of that year which supposedly raised a few eyebrows was that by a group of young scientists at Forresters university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Limits to Growth: A Report of the Club of Romes Project on the Predicament of Mankind, developed a series of scenarios, according to various resource availability and world policies, which produced two main outcomes:
The reports appraisal the best that could be done at the time was explicit. Most of officialdom (i.e., politicians, economists and business executives) was not listening, seemingly had no intention of listening, may have been incapable of listening, while generally speaking the public had little idea of what was happening a situation which now shows some signs of change; but is it too little too late? The Limits to Growth scenario has been rerun repeatedly in the years since the original publication, using more sophisticated software and updated input data. The results have been similar each time.
As far as I know the lengthy discussions about population growth presuppose that the formula taught to students of development, that total impact equals population times affluence times technology (I=PAT) is correct. This should be changed to total impact equals consumers times affluence times technology (I=CAT). Many of the worlds people use so little that they would hardly figure in this equation. As George Monbiot says: Its not sex; its money. Its not the poor; its the rich who are wrecking the environment and our lives. For example, a super yacht burning 3,400 litres per hour (nearly a litre per second) will do more damage to the biosphere in 10 minutes than most Africans inflict in a lifetime. 
Two years later, i.e., in 1974, Stewart Udall, Charles Conconi and David Osterhout pinpointed two persistent and major concerns.
The whole human enterprise is a machine without brakes, for there are no indications that the worlds political leaders will deal with the realities when catastrophes occur. The rich countries are using resources with an extravagant disregard for the next generation; and the poorer countries appear to be incapable of acting to curb the population increases that are erasing their hope for a better future. In such a world, declarations and manifestos which ignore the imperatives of the limits of growth are empty exercises. All the available evidence says we have already passed a point of no return, and tragic human convulsions are at hand. 
Nearly twenty years later, international environmental lawyer Klaus Bosselmann, in his classic text on political ecology In Namen der Natur, wrote:
In no other area of social reality does our blindness towards nature become so crassly obvious as in the present economy. The fixation on economic growth and its underlying values has accelerated ecological suicide to such extent that even immediate zero growth and the switch to an economic development along the lines of ecology could hardly stop the processes of destruction that have already been set in motion. The limits of growth, which have been well-known for more than two decades, have penetrated into the consciousness of many politicians, economists and scientists. Yet the actual economy is behaving in exactly the same way as if the famous Club of Rome study from 1972 had never taken place. Its author, Dennis Meadows, regards it today as a futile effort of love. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel he said recently: I have tried long enough to be a global evangelist and have learned in doing so that I cannot change the world. Apart from that, humankind behaves like someone committing suicide and there is no point in arguing with a suicidal person once they have already jumped out the window. 
As against all this, we have the following 1991 statement by Lawrence H Summers (already mentioned), who, if he has understood the full meaning of the limits to growth has not allowed it to deter business as usual.
There are no limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind any time in the foreseeable future. There isnt a risk of an apocalypse due to global warming or anything else. The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limits is a profound error and one that, were it ever to prove influential, would have staggering social costs. 
Another extraordinary statement is that by economist and former White House advisor Julian Simon:
We have in our hands now actually in our libraries the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years.
Did I read these eminent guys aright?
All of which seems to confirm that our history is predicated on statements and acts of great stupidity.
Twenty years after writing The Limits to Growth its authors evidently felt the need to produce a sequel, Beyond the Limits: Global Collapse or a Sustainable Society which stated: The longer the world economy takes to reduce its throughput and move towards sustainability, the lower the population and material standard that will be ultimately supportable. At some point delay means collapse. 
As time passed, the reports, like Hubberts, were increasingly criticised. But the models were not abandoned and in 2004, when an updated version was published it generated much interest.
Also in 1992 the Royal Society of London and the United States Academy of Sciences issued a report which opened with a foreword by the Societies Presidents:
World population is growing at the unprecedented rate of almost 100 million people every year [three per second], and human activities are producing major changes in the global environment. If current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity on the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.
The report went on:
In its 1991 report on world population, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) states that population growth is even faster than forecast in its report of 1984. Assuming nevertheless that there will in the future be substantial and sustained falls in fertility rates, the global population is expected in the UNs mid-range projection to rise from 5.4 billion in 1991 to 10 billion in 2050. This rapid rise may be unavoidable; considerably larger rises must be expected if fertility rates do not stabilize at the replacement level of about 2.1 children per woman. At present, about 95 percent of this growth is in the less developed countries (LDCs); the percentage of global population that live in the LDCs is projected to increase from 77 percent to 84 percent in 2020. 
Much more valuable material followed. More recent projections have all shown gradual but encouraging reductions in population forecasts. Nevertheless, the nature of the problem is indicated by the fact that here on Earth now the number of people who are alive represent ten percent of all people who have ever lived.
In the same year as the Royal Societys and the US Academys report (1992) we saw the World Scientists Warning to Humanity, signed by over 1670 of them, including 104 Nobel Prize winners. Both these reports should be framed and prominently displayed in every officials office. The Warning:
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about
No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished.
Warning. We the undersigned, senior members of the worlds scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated
The Earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the Earths limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.
The developed nations are the largest polluters in the world today. They must greatly reduce their over-consumption, if we are to reduce pressures on resources and the global environment. The developed nations have the obligation to provide aid and support to developing nations, because only the developed nations have the financial resources and the technical skills for these tasks.
Acting on this recognition is not altruism, but enlightened self-interest: whether industrialized or not we all have but one lifeboat. No nation can escape from injury when global biological systems are damaged. No nation can escape from conflicts over increasingly scarce resources. In addition, environmental and economic instabilities will cause mass migrations with incalculable consequences for developed and underdeveloped nations alike.
Developed nations must realize that environmental damage is one of the gravest threats they face, and that attempts to blunt it will be overwhelmed if their populations go unchecked. The greatest peril is to become trapped in spirals of environmental decline, poverty and unrest, leading to social, economic, and environmental collapse.
Success in this global endeavour will require a great reduction in violence and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct of war amounting to over $1 trillion annually [but see Introduction] will be badly needed in the new tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges.
A new ethic is required a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and the Earth. We must recognize the Earths limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great movement, convincing reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the needed changes.
The scientists issuing this warning hope that our message will reach and affect people everywhere. We need the help of many.
We require the help of the world community of scientists natural, social, economic, political;
We require the help of the worlds business and industrial leaders;
We require the help of the worlds religious leaders; and
We require the help of the worlds peoples.
We call on all to join us in this task.
Readers are particularly referred to David Suzukis book The Big Picture.
Read any newspaper or listen to TV and radio and the chances are that ones attention will be drawn to statements by officialdom politicians or economists or business executives sometimes all three who determine what the pliant media feeds its still more pliant public that our future economic well-being depends on more growth and still more growth. This traditional view of the growth economy, believing that it can continue with impunity to feed on Earths natural capital instead of living on the interest, admits no recognition of other views. Surely it should be obvious as American author and environmentalist Derrick Jensen puts it:
A global economy effectively creates infinite demand. There you have it. Thats a problem because no natural community not even one so fecund as the salmon used to be, or passenger pigeons, or cod, and so on ad absurdum can support infinite demand, especially when nothing beneficial is given back Combine an extractive (machine) economy with infinite demand, and youve got the death of pretty much everything it touches. 
The western parts in particular of our civilization are in the grip of unsustainable economic growth wherein too much is never enough. Policies which encourage business-as-usual growth are jeopardizing planetary survival.
This economic destitution responsible mainly for the mass poverty of a fifth of the worlds population leading to malnutrition, disease and death, not least among children is here briefly examined. Quite simply, writes Dr John Peet, in the long term, economic growth as currently understood is unsustainable.  One of the most exemplary books to recently appear was Tim Jacksons Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite World. As publishers earthscan puts it: Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our time. One endorsement, among many, comes from Jonathon Porritt: Jackson goes after the complacency and dishonesty at the heart of contemporary politics, and provides a brilliant and compelling account of the crucial importance of the growth debate. Technical or economic fixes the technotyranny earlier mentioned without changing the underlying causes will not solve the basic problem. The road we are travelling is rapidly leading to bankruptcy. Growth is killing us. But dont take my word for it; read the ever mounting literature, especially Richard Heinbergs book The End of Growth. Heinbergs central assertion is that economic growth as we have known it is over. He gives three main factors that stand in the way of further economic growth:
This is not a temporary condition; it is essentially permanent. Yes, growth is killing us..
In a discussion of this nature we need to clearly define our terms. You can grow in stature, in knowledge, in ability in other words, there can be developed a fuller working out where quality, not quantity, is involved. But for any system to be sustainable certain conditions must be scrupulously satisfied. Population ecologist William Rees explains. One of the most significant measures of mans degradation of his one and only home is the ecological footprint (EF), a term derived in the 1990s by Rees. Formally defined, the EF is
the total amount of land and water ecosystems required to produce the resources consumed and to assimilate the wastes produced by a defined population wherever on Earth that land and water is located. 
Prior to this, William J Catton Jr. in his excellent 1982 book on the subject had written that any environments carrying capacity is the number of creatures living a certain way who can be supported permanently on a critical piece of land. For example, how many deer could live on a certain island without overgrazing and damaging the capacity of that island to grow food for them.  Permanently is the key word here. There you have it.
The West and westernised parts of our civilization in particular have grossly exceeded these vital requirements. The evidence is plain to see. To further clarify the issue, Canadians enjoy a lavish lifestyle big houses, big cars, and fresh strawberries all the year round. They have a very big EF, estimated at 7.7 hectares per person. Earth has approximately 8.9 billion hectares of ecologically productive land, and a population now not far short of seven billion. Simple mathematics gives everyone about 1.3 hectares of land. If everyone on Earth were to enjoy Canadas material standards of living a minimum of about five additional planet Earths would be required. New Zealands EF is about the same as Canadas! Back in 1981, Stephen Schneider quoted Paul and Anne Ehrlichs warning:
The environmental system of the Earth would collapse if the attempt were made to supply all human beings alive today with a European style of living. To suggest that such an increase in living standards is possible for a world population twice the present size by the early part of the next century is preposterous. 
These questions must be answered: Is that substantial group of countries, all with EFs well above what our finite Earth can provide, and the majority of whose people thus enjoy more than their fair material standard of living, going to reduce this standard to enable those at the bottom of the heap to improve theirs? Of even greater importance, it can be argued, is whether this first large group can achieve sufficient equilibrium at a much lower standard of well-being to enable Earth to maintain our civilization? Is it not crystal clear that the answers to both questions, without a transformation of a kind which very few people can envisage, are a resounding NO. Consider the words of Marine Corps Sergeant Sprague of Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, part of the invading force in Iraq:
Ive been all the way through this desert from Basra to here and I aint seen one shopping mall or fast food restaurant. These people got nothing. Even in a little town like ours of twenty-five hundred you got a McDonald on one end and a Hardees at the other. 
Scientists tell us that Earth can support about two billion people at an adequate level of sustenance. No one therefore should have been surprised when Dr Stephen Hawking (thought of as the greatest mind in physics since Albert Einstein) posed this question on the Internet: In a world which is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years? A month later he answered himself: I dont know.  Well before this, Einstein had asked: How is it conceivable that all our lauded technological progress our very Civilization is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal?  It was also Einstein who told us: Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and Im not sure about the former. Its said that a somewhat similar combination of economic, political and environmental problems overtook the Roman Empire and led to the barbarian invasion of AD 476. Officialdom didnt take Einsteins comments seriously. Will it listen to Hawking? Following Hawking, in a private email with permission to promulgate, Derrick Jensen wrote:
There is nothing more catastrophic for this planet than the continuation of industrial civilization, and anyone who attempts to help it continue is, if were really honest, abetting catastrophe. If you dont believe me, ask the traditional indigenous, ask subsistence farmers being driven off their land, ask those whose water is being stolen for aluminium smelters, ask the salmon, ask the polar bears, ask the passenger pigeons (if you can find any).
There is nothing more practical than defending ones landbase (I have a new slogan: protect your landbase: you cant have sex without one): those humans who come after arent going to care about how we tinkered, theyre not going to care how hard we tried, theyre not going to care whether we were practical or impractical, theyre not going to care whether we worked within or without the system, theyre not going to care about new technologies. Theyre going to care about whether they can live on this planet. Theyre going to care about whether they can drink the water and breathe the air.
Our entire Earth is at risk. I believe the greatest challenge we face was well expressed by the peace mediator/environmentalist, the late King Hussein of Jordan, when he addressed the United Nations conference on Environment and Development.
Our goal is to ensure that environmental protection becomes as deeply embedded in our national psyche and in our human spirit as our existing commitments to balanced development, pluralism, human rights, and regional peace based on justice and international law. We are deeply committed to this goal, despite the severe restraints of political, economic and demographic pressures on our country for we would be morally, politically and perhaps even criminally negligent if we were to place financial profits and material comforts above the goal of the integrity of our Earth, the welfare of our people, and the prospects of our children and grandchildren. 
Officialdom seemed not to be listening any more than it was when Aristotle put the whole matter so clearly in the fourth century BC:
In the art of acquiring riches its end has no limit, for its object is money and possessions; but economy has a boundary, for acquiring riches is not its real end for the mere getting of money differs from natural wealth and the latter is the true object of economy.
Of course, many others, such as Wordsworth in 1807, have told us how stupid we are.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours. 
More recently, Jonathan Porritt also defined what should be our aim:
Humanitys greatest priority is to reintegrate with the natural world. 
Noam Chomsky, in his inimitable way, refers specifically to the severe restraints of political, economic and demographic pressures when he writes:
Business executives understand as well as other educated elites that the world is heading toward environmental catastrophe if no serious steps are taken to avert it. Nevertheless, they are dedicated to bringing about this result. They put huge efforts into convincing the public to reject what they know to be true and ominous. And they are successful, as polls illustrate. An enormous business-backed propaganda campaign is surely a factor in the very sharp decline of concern among Americans over global warming, to the point where by late 2009, barely one-third believe that it is influenced by human activity. The standard explanation for the willingness of business executives to dismiss the fate of their grandchildren and even to destroy what they own is that short-term profits outweigh long-term considerations. But the answer is incomplete. Once again, the choice results from fundamental market inefficiencies: the pressure to ignore the impact on others in undertaking transactions, if one wants to stay in the game. In this case, the externalities happen to be the fate of the species, but the logic is the same. 
In 1967, Lynn White, Professor of History at the University of California, suggested what seems to me one rational reason for our increasingly dire situation.
Christianity in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asias religions, has not only established a dualism of man and nature, but also insisted that it is Gods will that man exploit nature for its proper ends Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt for the human attitude that we are superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man. 
The Bible, Genesis 1:28, fully supports Whites statement: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth. On the other hand, also in Genesis 1, there is a message of how we understand the world we live in. For Rt Rev Richard Randerson, of Auckland, the key about that is that we live with a sense of interdependence. So all the parts of creation the earth, the sea, the sky, the animals, the plants, the human species, live as a family and with a sense of mutuality and interdependence. The role of the human species is to act as stewards It leads us to the concept of sustainability. 
Politicians, economists of traditional persuasion, and certainly most business executives who, in the main, place growth and profit before people, presumably and unwittingly subscribe to Whites view. The Catholic church no less, with its hostility toward birth control, has not exactly helped the situation.
Part of the environmental protection referred to by King Hussein is our climate which is changing alarmingly through anthropogenic interference. To help mitigate this potential catastrophe emission trading has been introduced. Invented in 1995 in the US to deal with sulphur dioxide pollution from burning coal, a carbon currency was instigated. The later Kyoto Protocol assisted with this while Sir Nicholas Stern with his 2006 report supported it. However, there are those who feel strongly that the emissions trading scheme [ETS] is one of the biggest scams of all time. Geoff Bertram and Simon Terry argue that the emissions trading scheme benefits large-scale agriculture and industrial emitters at the expense of households and small businesses today and future taxpayers tomorrow.  It rewards polluters by giving them quotas for pollution, such quotas allowing them to increase rather than decrease their emissions. For them further pollution seems to be the solution. For an explanation of the ETS see James Hansens 2009 book Storms of My Grandchildren.
Looking specifically at economics we find that the word economy comes from the Greek oikonomia which derives from two words oikos meaning house or household and nomos meaning rule or law. Thus when we talk about economy we mean literally the careful and thrifty management of the household assets for the increasing benefit of all its members over the long term. Expand this into the wider world community and we have a sound basis for global economics. However, the original concept of oikonomia has been totally replaced by what is known as chrematistics, from the Greek khrimatistikos, which is that branch of political economy relating to the manipulation of property and wealth so as to maximise the short-run monetary exchange value to the owner(s). In oikonomia there is such a thing as enough; in chrematistics more is always better. Most investment in the world today is hot speculative, i.e., of the chrematistic kind and very short term. In 1970, trade and long-term investment accounted for 90 percent of transactions; in 1995, speculative investment accounted for 95 percent.  Profit before people is the name of the game its called capitalism. As Isabelle Fremeaux and John Jordan put it: Whether its the economy or our ecology, the limitless obscenity of capitalism demands impossible rates of return on the resources that it exploits, amassing debts that can never be paid. Under it, most countries, including New Zealand, are up to their eyeballs in debt. For example, in Spain the one city of Madrid is said to have a debt of $9.5 billion. International financial packages seem readily available. Early in 2010 there was the reported $150 billion Greek bailout, in late November Ireland asked for an international financial rescue package of $122 billion after the banks had already received $70 billion, while market watchers say Portugal and maybe Spain are standing in line. Does this solve the problem or prolong the day or reckoning?
To better understand why we are in this critical situation we should journey back in time a long way, but as the German philosopher Georg Hegel said not too far back: What experience and history teach us is this that people and governments never have learnt anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it. 
Numerous writers have said much the same thing. Though many factors have combined to exacerbate our most recent problem of the growth syndrome a problem which started with the Industrial Revolution (refer Herman Daly ) one in particular was the advent of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his theory of unconscious repression and practice of psychoanalysis, and in particular the vision and obsession of his nephew Edward Bernays the father of public relations, [who] predicted a pervasive invisible government of corporate spin, suppression and silence as the true ruling power in the United States.  Bernays maintained that the free market could establish a utopia in which the corporate world theoretically could create anything to satisfy the desires, not the needs, of this market. People were treated as passive consumers with no decision-making capacity something very much in evidence today while those in power used Freuds ideas to manipulate and control the masses. By the mid 1920s the engineering of consent was firmly in place whereby these inner desires were stimulated and then satisfied. Wrote a journalist in 1927: A change has come over our democracy. It is called consumptionising. American citizens first importance to his country is no longer that of citizen but that of consumer.  Consumerism became the American way of life and quickly spread throughout the Western world and later further afield with the disastrous results we see around us.
In the worldwide form in which economics has developed for there are now few national boundaries this is a new phenomenon peculiar to the 20th century. Nations have lost their sovereignty and governments their control to an exceptionally powerful and covert, self-elected behemoth at the top of which sit the worlds leading banking empires and the insatiable transnational corporations (TNCs), especially the oil companies, for which growth is the driving force. However, according to David Skilling, chief executive of the New Zealand Institute, a non-partisan economic think-tank:
The growth in the New Zealand economy benefits those who own the assets, and the people who own the assets are increasingly not New Zealanders. 
These powerful bodies have become the real power of the Earth; the de-facto governments, operating outside the law The governments have become merely chauffeurs for the transnationals which have created the new global anarchy of the international marketplace.  In fact, the world is now ruled by a global financial system running dangerously out of control. In the sole pursuit of the accumulation of financial gain, i.e., unrelated to productive investment or trade in actual goods and services, this octopus electronically moved around the world in 1994-95 in the shape of blips on computer screens every 24 hours $1.3 trillion ($1,300,000,000,000) $9 trillion a week, $40 trillion a month, $475 trillion a year.  The 1980 daily movement was $80 billion; by late 2002 it had ballooned to $6 trillion. This speculation this sea of cash sloshing from shore to shore can easily cause the downfall of economies and thrust people into poverty. Will economists (or anyone else) tell us truthfully, if that is possible, exactly what will happen when these enormous, unstable, electronically-controlled plates finally slide, as they surely will? Are they not sliding now?
Gillian Tett, in her useful new book Fools Gold, writes that the global financial meltdown, which economists estimate could result in total losses from $2 trillion to $4 trillion , was self-inflicted. Unlike many banking crises, this one was not triggered by a war, a widespread recession, or an external economic shock. Rather, the entire financial system went wrong as a result of flawed incentives within banks and investments funds, as well as the rating agencies; warped regulatory structures; and a lack of oversight. 
While Tett and another writer, Daniel Gross in his book Dumb Money, both convey the sheer craziness of the speculation in derivatives, Gross describes the whole spectacle as debt layered on debt, frosted with debt. 
We have been seduced by this exceptionally pathological growth fetish , this apparently unassailable mantra of the perpetual growth ethic or creeping death the ideology of the cancer cell  and an absolute impossibility on a finite Earth with its finite resources.
Dr Albert Bartlett, in his brilliant talk Arithmetic, Population and Energy (see later), asks: Have you ever heard of a physician diagnosing a cancer in a patient and telling the patient, You have a robust cancer.  In this creeping death, the driving force behind todays economy, money has become the primary source of value and meaning for many humans, a substitute for the morality and spirituality that traditionally was a unifying force. Just as a continuously growing cancer eventually destroys its life-support systems by destroying its host, this continuously expanding global economy is surely and mercilessly destroying its host Earths ecosystems. To take one example from the many surrounding us. Commercial fishing fleets, as they vacuum clean the oceans bottom, are rapidly causing a maritime ecological disaster with fish stocks facing gross depletion all around the world. This is not all, for as Duncan Copland, investigator for the Environmental Justice Foundation, reports:
We didnt set out to look at human rights but rather to tackle the illegal fishing that is decimating fish stocks, but having been on board we have seen conditions that unquestionably meet the UN official definition of forced labour or modern-day slavery. It was horrendous, said Copland, who boarded a South Korean-flagged trawler at the end of 2008 with naval forces from Sierra Leone. The men were working in the fish hold with no air or ventilation in temperatures of 40-45 degrees. It was rusty, greasy, hot and sweaty. There were cockroaches everywhere in the galleys. All they had for washing was a pump bringing up salt water. 
This whole growth syndrome the major source of our worsening global problems urgently demands the closest scrutiny, for as Herman Daly, until recently senior economist with the environmental department of the World Bank in Washington, reports:
Its really been only in the last 200 years that growth has been really a part of our lives [since the start of the Industrial Revolution]. Prior to that, on an annual basis, growth was negligible. The idea that we must either grow or die is just not supported by history and I think that the contrary is much more likely: if we continue to grow, then surely we will die. 
Sustainable growth when applied to material things, usually at between some two to five percent annually, much bandied about officially and unofficially, also produces wittingly or unwittingly a gross distortion of reality, for it is an oxymoron a pointedly foolish statement. As Stanford University ecologist Paul Ehrlich remarks:
Steady growth or sustainable growth is a non sequitur. It simply cannot be done on a finite planet. You may be able to grow intellectually for a long time but you cannot grow physically for a long time. We are already past the limits of sustainable growth. So if you hear somebody saying that, you know again that they simply dont understand the situation There are certain rules of the Universe that humanity simply cannot repeal and the sooner economists, politicians, and businessmen begin to understand that, the sooner they will begin to have a future for their children and grandchildren. 
Often sustainable development is used as a synonym for sustainable growth. Where this is done it is likewise an oxymoron. With the growth syndrome we are dealing with a subject about which officialdom brooks no interference. Growth to officialdom has an entirely different meaning from the fuller working out mentioned earlier. The moment it is suggested that a steady state economy might prevent our forthcoming collapse we are on forbidden ground. We are told that without more growth, i.e., throughput of materials in our system, our economy will collapse. It assuredly will if we continue our material growth, especially population growth. And here for your enjoyment I must introduce Adrienne Rich, who Im sure Wikileaks would fully support, who wrote:
We assume that politicians are without honour. We read their statements trying to crack the code. The scandal of their politics is not that men in high places lie, only that they do so with such indifference, so endlessly, still expecting to be believed. We are accustomed to the contempt inherent in the political life. 
The fact that Earths future, our future, hangs in the balance has been forcefully confirmed by many, Al Gore being one of the more recent in his excellent book An Inconvenient Truth , later shown as a film at the Wellington 2006 Film Festival. Gore has given this material as a talk over 1,000 times. In 2007 it was reported that a lawsuit in the UK to prevent the distribution of a DVD of Gores film to state schools as part of a package to educate three million students about climate change had been dismissed. The judge, while drawing attention to nine statements in the film not supported by current mainstream scientific consensus, said that it built a powerful case that global warming is caused by humans and that urgent means are needed to counter it.  While Gores first book identifies the problem, his second Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis  offers a solution. Gores work is intimately related to that of retired Professor of Physics (University of Colorado) Dr Albert Bartletts talk Arithmetic, Population, and Energy (supplied to the writer and already referred to) which since 1969 with many modifications and extensions he has delivered some 1,500 times. Bartletts public talk goes to the very heart of what Im writing about but being over an hour long, I can only quote a little of it.
What I hope to do is, I hope to be able to convince you that the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. Well, you say, whats the exponential function?
This is a mathematical function that youd write down if youre going to describe the size of anything that was growing steadily. If you had something growing 5% per year, youd write the exponential function to show how large that growing quantity was, year after year. And so were talking about a situation where the time thats required for the growing quantity to increase by a fixed fraction is a constant: 5% per year, the 5% is a fixed fraction, the per year is a fixed length of time. So thats what we want to talk about: its just ordinary steady growth .
Legend has it that the game of chess was invented by a mathematician who worked for a king. The king was very pleased. He said, I want to reward you. The mathematician said, My needs are modest. Please take my new chess board and on the first square, place one grain of wheat. On the next square, double the one to make two. On the next square, double the two to make four. Just keep doubling for every square, that will be an adequate payment. We can guess the king thought This foolish man. I was ready to give him a real reward; all he asked for was just a few grains of wheat. But lets see what is involved in this. We know there are eight grains on the fourth square. I can get this number, eight, by multiplying three twos together. Its 2x2x2, its one less than the number of the square. Now that continues in each case. So on the last square, Id find the number of grains by multiplying 63 twos together. Now lets look at the way the total builds up. When we add one grain on the first square, the total on the board is one. We add two grains, that makes a total of three. We put on four grains, now the total is seven. Seven is a grain less than eight, its a grain less than three twos multiplied together. Fifteen is a grain less than four twos multiplied together. That continues in each case, so when were done, the total number of grains will be one less than the number I get multiplying 64 twos together. My question is, how much wheat is that? You know, would that be a nice pile here in the room? Would it fill the building? Would it cover the country to a depth of two meters? How much wheat are we talking about? The answer is, its roughly 400 times the 1990 worldwide harvest of wheat. That could be more wheat than humans have harvested in the entire history of the earth.
Bartlett went on to give several examples of how officialdom (including local bodies) had no understanding of the exponential function, with dire results. He then looked at what happens with steady growth (such as population) in a finite environment.
Bacteria grow by doubling. One bacterium divides to become two, the two divides to become 4, the 4 becomes 8, 16 and so on. Suppose we had bacteria that doubled in number this way every minute. Suppose we put one of these bacteria into an empty bottle at 11:00 in the morning, and then observe that the bottle is full at 12:00 noon. Thats our case of just ordinary steady growth: it has a doubling time of one minute, its in the finite environment of one bottle. I want to ask you three questions. Number one: at what time was the bottle half full? Well, would you believe 11:59, one minute before 12:00? Because they double in number every minute. And the second question: if you were an average bacterium in that bottle, at what time would you first realize you were running out of space? Well, lets just look at the last minutes in the bottle. At 12:00 noon, its full; one minute before, its half full; 2 minutes before, its a quarter full; then an 1/8th; then a 1/16th. Let me ask you, at 5 minutes before 12:00, when the bottle is only 3% full and is 97% open space just yearning for development, how many of you would realize theres a problem?
You know what the third question is: how long can the growth continue as a result of this magnificent discovery? Well, look at the score: at 12:00 noon, one bottle is filled, there are three to go; 12:01, two bottles are filled, there are two to go; and at 12.02, all four are filled and thats the end of the line.
Now, you dont need any more arithmetic than this to evaluate the absolutely contradictory statements that weve all heard and read from experts who tell us in one breath we can go on increasing our rates of consumption of fossil fuels, in the next breath they say Dont worry, we will always be able to make the discoveries of new resources that we need to meet the requirements of that growth .
Can you think of any problem, on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long term solution is in any demonstrable way, aided, assisted, or advanced by having larger populations at our local levels, state levels, national level, or global level? Can you think of anything that can get better if we crowd more people into our cities, our towns, into our state, our nation, or on this earth?
And Ill close with these words from the late reverend Martin Luther King Jr. He said, Unlike the plagues of the dark ages, or contemporary diseases which we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is solvable with means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution, but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of the billions who are its victims. 
One of the most comprehensive State-of-the-Earth documentaries is DiCaprios 2007 film The 11th Hour in which, accompanied by beautiful pictures, many of the worlds most eloquent and knowledgeable experts tell us why our civilisation has reached the brink and what we can do about it if we manage to come to our senses in time. Most recent of these outstanding shows was Earth which launched the 2008 Wellington Film Festival. Made over five years by the BBCs Natural History Unit in 200 locations across 26 countries, the images, words and sounds explore the fragility of life on a dying planet.
Jenny Wright clearly indicates the fallacies of the growth paradigm:
Conventional economic wisdom, which is predicated on the everlasting growth of materialism at some three percent per year, is having difficulty with the concept of sustainable development. This is partly due to the facts that a large proportion of what passes for development is really ecological destruction and rape of the biosphere, and that much of what currently passes as investment is really consumption. More seriously it is due to a failure of economics to recognise that there is more to life than money, and a lot more to land than rent. The practice of taking from nature can only be continued with impunity if planetary resources are infinite, or if Mother Nature is infinitely capable of repairing the ravages of man. Unfortunately, neither of these conditions is true Total ecological demand is exceeding total ecological supply and will place an ever increasing load on the biosphere. 
One is forced to agree with the growing body of eminent internationalists that, in the main, politicians, economists and business executives are brain-damaged. You dont have to be a first year economics student to understand that the sacred mantra of continuous economic growth, as it is understood, as against a zero growth economy, is totally unsustainable. We live on a finite planet, within a closed ecosystem of finite resources. If we continue to act extravagantly, to grow and to live on Earths material capital, instead of on its interest, our civilisations collapse is assured. Yet our basic problem of denial is exceptionally difficult to overcome for as a leading eco-philosopher, Joanna Macy, writes: The perils facing life on earth are so massive and unprecedented that they are hard to believe. The very danger signals that should rivet our attention, summon up the blood and bond us in collective action, tend to have the opposite effect. They make us want to pull down the blinds and busy ourselves with other things.  But as President Obama said in 2008, specifically with regard to global warming: The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.  This before the warning from the 2,500 scientists at the 2009 conference in Gopenhagen: Act now or face climate catastrophe.  A fast developing body of public opinion is at last beginning to agree with people like Stephen Hawking weve made one hell of a mess of things and it wants to know why, and what is being done short- and long-term, and what it can do itself. Will this body reach a critical mass before we reach the edge of the abyss? Trouble is, as Mark Twain said: Denial aint just a river in Egypt. Denial is very prevalent, especially among officialdom for whom there is no middle road between affluence and poverty, for whom the unquestioned identification of progress with unfettered growth means everything and for whom any challenge to growth could mean the end of progress and their way of life.
Wright mentioned consumption. With economic growth inevitably comes increasing consumption. (The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines the word consume as meaning to take away with or destroy; to waste or squander; to use up.) The unprecedented expansion of this world consumption expenditure is evinced by these figures:
Unfortunately and deliberately, inequalities in consumption have become stark. The false market system so rapidly built up and expanded at every opportunity has to sustain repeated upward growth for it to keep going. This demands that the already over-consumption of the West and westernised worlds be maintained and spread as rapidly as possible to the rest of the world. Retail analyst Victor Lebow has warned us of the dangers of this so destructive course: Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.
The general director of General Motors Research Laboratories, Charles Kettering, gave one succinct answer to how this is to be achieved when he said that the mission of business is the organised creation of dissatisfaction.  People are increasingly persuaded and manipulated into consumerism by a multi-billion dollar insidious advertising industry that has the most devastating consequences for the environment and our future. And the chief targets of this ceaseless, voracious, merciless industry? Our children the younger the better.
While these disparities keep growing: On average, the additional economic output in each of the last four decades has matched that added from the beginning of civilisation until 1950.  I have put in bold type this reference to emphasise its significance. While this phenomenal growth has taken place, i.e., between 1950 and 1990 over a 40-year span it is estimated that
This widening gap is well illustrated by the case of Mukesh Ambani, rated the worlds fourth richest person, who recently house-warmed his new residence in Mumbai (Bombay). 37,000 square metres on 27 floors with 168 parking lots and three heliports, houses a family of six, all overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Mumbai slums. According to Forbes for November, the wealthiest 100 Indians are worth US$276 billion, the top 100 Chinese counterparts US$170 billion. It is reported that in India 42 percent of the worlds underweight children are under five, while Mumbai is home to some of Asias worst slums. 
As the prime purpose of the economic system is to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich, the last two changes above are fully understandable.
Vandana Shiva points out that the continuous growth of economic activity guided solely by market economic forces ultimately can only lead to a situation
where the total withdrawal of natural resources both for basic needs satisfaction and for sectoral growth, becomes more than the renewability of natural resources. At this point, the Gross National Product keeps increasing while the Gross Natural Product starts declining If the process of decline in the renewability of natural resources is allowed beyond a critical point, the process of degradation becomes irreversible The history of Roman and Mesopotamian civilisations is an example of total societal collapse due to the erosion of natures economy.
These and other collapses were brilliantly explored by Ronald Wright in his 2004 five CBC Massey Lectures, later published as a book.  Another special book which stands together with Wrights is Jared Diamonds substantial work Collapse about civilisations failures and survivals.  George Soros, a most successful capitalist, has seen fit to add his weight to the mounting criticism of the road we are travelling.
Although I have made a fortune in the financial markets, I now fear that the untrammelled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat. 
This is the very heart of the matter, for as Naomi Klein writes in her frightening book The Shock Doctrine:
These days, we are once again living in an era of corporatist massacres, with countries suffering tremendous military violence alongside organized attempts to remake them into model free market economies; disappearances and torture are back with a vengeance. And once again the goals of building free markets, and the need for such brutality, are treated are entirely unrelated. 
It is important that we ensure that the benefits of economic development are shared among us all, but our world doesnt work that way. The upward movement/concentration of wealth, which has become obscene, (in Russia, before Yelsin came to power, there were no millionaires, by 2003 its billionaires numbered seventeen ), ensures that under the present destitute economic system there will never be enough for everyone, especially with a still increasing population. As it is, one in five of the worlds peoples lives on less than one dollar a day while the five percent at the top of the pile enjoys some 85 percent of all the material good things. Bear in mind that in 1600 the Earths human population was 500,000,000; in 1700 625,000,000; in 1800 960,000,000; in 1900 1,600,000,000; in 1950 2,500,000,000; and in 2000 6,050,000,000. Today it is nearing 7,000,000,000 the greatest population explosion of all time. Yet its the same finite Earth with the same finite resources. The environmental effects of this enormous explosion still seem to elude us. Its essential to understand that its not entirely population expansion which is depleting resources and intensifying environmental pollution, but the very nature of the growth- and profit-orientated system itself. Thus a baby born in the United States represents twice the disaster for Earth as one born in Sweden or the USSR, three times one born in Italy, 13 times one born in Brazil, 35 times one born in India, 140 times one born in Bangladesh or Kenya, and 200 times one in Chad, Rwanda, Haiti, or Nepal. 
Oil is the very life blood of our civilisation without it we would grind to a standstill; drinking water will be a far greater threat without it our civilization will die.
We have arrived at a crossroad which offers two paths. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, climate change will cause irreparable damage to Earth; if we dont our Western way of life will collapse. Which path is the most dire? Surely there should be no question. Without a healthy planet humankind will not adequately survive.
In August 2009, The Independent reporter Dr Faith Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, which is charged with the task of assessing future energy supplies, was reported as saying that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilization depends from transportation, communication, agriculture, plastics, manufacturing, chemicals, to just about everything we see and use is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated. Remember, many scientists say the peak has passed. In 1971, production of petroleum from US oil fields reached peak levels, since when it has slowly and irrevocably declined. Now global oil production has either reached its peak or will do so in the near future. The situation is not dissimilar for coal and gas. Given that fossil fuels are the crucial resource of the worlds energy, this event can only have a catastrophic effect socially, politically and economically. Its well past time that officialdom and the public realised that
THERE ARE NO COMBINATIONS OF ENERGY SOURCES WITHIN SIGHT THAT WILL SUPPORT A SMALL FRACTION OF THE LIFE STYLE THAT THE WESTERN AND WESTERNISED WORLDS HAVE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO 
Given that the alternatives of wind, wave, water, geothermal and solar are essential but to date far from adequate, that uranium, the source of nuclear power, is finite and that nuclear power itself is enormously expensive and dangerous and produces highly radioactive waste for which there is no suitable storage, (as has been pointed out we dont need nuclear help in getting us out of a frying pan and into a fire that will last for hundreds of thousands of years to come (but see James Hansens book already referred to), that gas production, like oil, is in decline, that biofuels, according to one international authority in this field, are a recipe for violence and civic breakdown, for hunger, for climate chaos and ecological catastrophe , and that a hydrogen economy is light years away, given these factors, shocks will be needed to awaken decision-makers and the public to the fact that Peak Oil and Peak Gas concern everybody and are not debatable or academic subjects.  What will be the climate change effect of the coal-fired power stations which China is reportedly going to build at the rate of one a week for the next seven years?
James Hansen, the worlds leading climate scientist, has stated that CO2 levels must be reduced from 389ppm in 2010 to 350ppm by a suggested year of 2040 (1750 levels 270ppm) and that without prompt action to achieve this we will continue down the slippery slope. Hansen shows convincingly that the use of coal, especially lignite coal and tar sands, must be phased out by 2040 to avert climate catastrophe. 
One of these shocks came in February 2005 with the publication of the US Hirsch Report: Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management. The Executive Summary was explicit:
The inescapable conclusion is that more than a decade will be required for the collective contributions to produce results that significantly impact world supply and demand for liquid fuels . The problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past energy crisis experience will provide relatively little guidance. The challenge of oil peaking demands immediate, serious attention, if risks are to be fully understood and mitigation begun on a timely basis . Mitigation will require a minimum of a decade of intense effort, because the scale of liquid fuels mitigation is inherently extremely large .
That was written more than five years ago. The report listed 12 sources of projection of oil production peaking. One source gave no visible peak, Shell gave 2025 or later, CERA energy consultants said after 2020, Laherre 2010-2020, World Energy Council after 2010, while the other six said 2006-2010.
The Hirsch Report by Robert L Hirsch, Senior Energy Program Advisor, was quietly placed in the bottom drawer. Nothing has been heard of it since.
Another shock was the UK Stern Review of October 2006 which said that the expected increase in extreme weather, with the associated problems of agriculture failure, water scarcity, disease and mass migration meant that global warming could swallow up to 20 percent of the worlds GDP. The UK Treasury three page summary put it thus: Unchecked global warming will devastate world economy.  What was of critical interest in these three pages was the apparent lack of understanding of where the growth syndrome was driving our civilisation. The Stern Review focused on what is good for business, not what is good for Earth and the poor. It basically confirmed business as usual. In April it was reported that Sir Nicholson Stern had warned that with his gloomy predictions he had underestimated the risks and that a larger threat was posed.  Did this review meet the same fate as the Hirsch Report?
All of which confirms H G Wells aphorism that: Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. 
We are already living in a grossly dysfunctional world whose New World Order has greatly diminished our social capital and led to the kind of global poverty described by Christopher Richards as characterised by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, shame, depression and despair as well as disillusionment and sometimes aggression and violence. This is palpable.
To try to sum up. At the heart of this worldwide crisis of vast and gross disparities lie two basic lethal flaws.
Traditional officialdom is blind to ecological structure and function. It has a massive problem, one which is destroying our civilization. Its vision of the human economy is one in which the factors of production are infinitely substitutional for one another and in which using any resource more intensely guarantees an increase in output.  It is also blind to the fact that the mechanical mind cannot solve the problems of the mechanical age. A fundamental question, virtually ignored by mainstream analyses, is whether the physical output of remaining species and related biophysical processes, and the waste assimilation capacity of the ecosphere are sufficient to sustain the loads of the human economy into this century and beyond, while at the same time maintaining the life support systems of the ecosphere. By continuing to ignore all manner of externalities a good example is the ozone layer traditional economies can only lead to this civilisations destruction. Political solutions cannot at present humanize the faulty economics at the heart of our dilemma, for being inhuman they are unresponsive to reason.
But a tiny ray of hope is evident. In September 2005 the China-EU Forum held a symposium in Beijing Sustainable Development in China and the World at which the Chinese leaders expounded the principle of the three zeroes: zero growth in population, zero growth in resource use and zero growth in pollution. Coming from a country which that year had a growth rate of ten percent in its GDP this was no mean challenge. But if all countries their administrations and their peoples fully realised the importance of the principle of the three zeroes and acted accordingly, the sooner we would be able to breathe a bit easier. What are the chances of this happening?
GNP (Gross National Product) was devised by an American, Simon Kuznet, during the Depression as a measure of economic activity, and was improved during World War 11 when the over-riding consideration was production for destruction. It has been defined as the total value of all final goods and services produced by a nation in a given year, expressed in monetary terms. It includes both foreign and domestic output claimed by residents. Per capita GNP is the gross national product of a nation divided by its population.  Minor amendments have taken place until today the Gross Domestic Product is in general use. GNP/GDP is an excellent example of economic/political ineptitude which completely distorts reality as is shown by the following short list.
By this distorted reasoning, the clean-up of the Exxon Valdaz oil spill, repairing the damage from the bombings of the World Trade Centre and the explosion of TWA Flight 800, increased the United States GNP. Thus disasters that are tragic for people (for example, every car crash) and the environment are counted as good for the economy. But will officialdom listen? Oh no. Our entire monetary system is predicated on perpetual growth. A steady state, sustainable economy will not be countenanced under any circumstances. The concept of GNP is worshipped more keenly than ever.
In the mid-1980s a quiet and insidious shift was made from GNP to GDP whereby what was previously a perverse measure of progress became a cover-up for the social and economic costs of globalization. 
One of the fundamental and fatal flaws in our whole economic system is that in its measurement of output, while it rightly allows for depreciation of plant and equipment, it takes no account of the depreciation or loss of resources, as already stated; i.e., the natural capital, used to sustain growth, which the system believes is synonymous with progress. Nor does it include the synergistic short and long term biological, social, ecological and environmental effects of its growth-oriented production. There is no recognition whatsoever of the loss of topsoil from erosion, the depletion of the protective stratospheric ozone layer, the destruction of forests by acid rain. While industry internalises its profits it externalises its costs by passing on to society such expenses as those of health care arising from polluted air and water and soil and those arising from global warming. Thus the economic accounting system does not reflect reality but continues to generate environmental destruction. As Bjorn Stigson, head of the Swedish engineering firm AB Flakt, put it in a 1991 UN publication, Notes for Speakers: We treat nature like we treated workers a hundred years ago. We included then no cost for the health and social security of workers in our calculations, and today we include no cost for the health and security of nature.
Unless these indicators are incorporated in the balance sheet and it will take a quantum leap of thought and practice to achieve this the world will continue on its present path. One has to ask: Is it not well past time for a totally new economy? Readers are particularly referred to David Kortens 2010 book Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth and to People First Economics a collection of essays by Joseph Stiglitz, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Susan George, Walden Bello and Barbara Ehrenrich.
In 1970, economist W B Sutch pointed to the error of this universal pursuit of growth at all costs.
If GNP is raised all is right with the world; you are increasingly being judged by your contribution to GNP and you are being pushed aside if your activity or your advocacy seem to cut across the acquisition of the quick dollar. Gross National Product has no ethics or aesthetics, it is neutral on morality. It cares little for posterity, it disregards community, it is nauseating as a national aim. 
David Suzuki, a third-generation Canadian of Japanese descent, together with an already large and fast growing number of international writers, reinforces this view.
They (growth and progress) have become equitable. We interchange them. Indeed, if you ask most politicians, Why is your government in office? the vast majority of them will say We want to do everything we can to maintain steady economic growth. So that it has become equivalent to progress. And the problem with that notion is that if progress is the very end to which you are aiming, there is no end to it. You cant conceive of an end to progress and since progress is growth, then growth will always be the raison detre for our society growth has become an end in itself. And that is death to the planet. 
Richard Douthwaite is one economist who realizes that economics is one of Ivan Illichs disabling professions. In 1997 he visited Australia and New Zealand and broadly described how the growth syndrome is damaging the Earth, degrading the global environment and making life worse for the majority of humankind. He demonstrates in his book Short Circuit the use of better indices of human welfare than GNP/GDP namely Genuine Progress Index or Indicator or GPI, now in use in parts of the United States, and the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (SEW) in use in the United Kingdom. Compared with GDP, the measure of GPI reveals that much of what economists consider economic growth is actually:
Why do these alternative indicators of GPI and SEW get no publicity and why are they not in general use? The simple answer is that officialdom does not want the populace to fully understand these issues because if it did all hell would break loose. We would become aware of the truth that the standard of living has been in descent since about the 1970s. GDP simply measures the quantity of market activity without counting the social and environmental costs involved, and is a totally misleading measure of prosperity. The warnings have been many the 1972 Limits to Growth and the 1992 Beyond the Limits being pre-eminent. In 1984 in Before It Is Too Late Aurelio Peccei and Daisaku Ikeda wrote:
The time has come to make a thorough reappraisal of our present outlook and stance, even if it shakes to the very foundations our trust in the material revolutions and the concept we have built of progress, wealth, welfare and civilisation in this epoch. New guidelines for our thinking and action are indispensable if we are to march safely and serenely into the future. And essential among them is the consideration that no other problem can be properly approached, let alone solved, no economic or social development is possible, no plan can be realised and no heritage we wish to bequeath to our children can be effective, nothing can indeed be lasting until and unless we succeed in re-establishing peace and harmony with Nature. Together with that of human development, this is the basic imperative of our age and one of the foremost conclusions to be drawn from our reflections on the ascent of modern man to a position of exalted power and unparalleled responsibility on our small and vulnerable planet. All other considerations can only be ancillary. 
While on the subject of reporting and the truth, one would think that the primary function of reporting was to tell the truth, as it may well have been in times past. But the world no longer works like that assuming it once did. Take war for example, which as previously noted is a most profitable pastime for some. John Pilger, whose 2010 film The War You Dont See is a must view, reports that
the truth of war is the grotesque. It is trees hanging with the body parts of children. It is people going insane before your eyes. It is terrified soldiers with their trousers full of shit. It is human damage that runs through countless families: civilians and soldiers. Thats war. The coverage of war should be this eyewitness, but it should also try to tell us the why. That means journalists not concluding but investigating. One of the most revealing documents released by Wikileaks was a 2,000-page Ministry of Defence document that equated investigative journalists with terrorists. That reflects the lethal stupidity that runs like a current through the war-making industry. It says they are afraid of the truth. 
Pilger also lists the incredible proportion of military to civilian deaths in four major wars: World War 1 1 to 10; World War 2 1 to 50; Vietnam 1 to 70; Iraq 1 to 90.
Robert Fisk, another highly reputable journalist who for over thirty years has been foreign correspondent in the Middle East, asks: Do we need war? Do we need it the way we need air and love and children and safety?  We should remember the percentage of civilians killed during major wars of the 20th century: World War 1 10%, World War 2 50%, Vietnam 70%, Iraq 90%. 
The duplicity of officialdom is difficult to believe. More power to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. If, for example, this knowledge about war, as Pilger tells us, was made public in its widest sense would wars continue with further promotion of democracy in subjugated countries? Democracy here will have United States support if and only if it conforms to US strategic and economic interests.  At this point it is appropriate to include the following extract from a much longer article The elite howl when hit by light of truth:
I have lost count of the politicians and opinion formers of an authoritarian bent warning of the dreadful damage done by the WikiLeaks dump of diplomatic cables, and in the very next breath dismissing the content as frivolous tittle-tattle. To seek simultaneous advantage from opposing arguments is not a new gambit, but to be wrong in both is quite an achievement.
Publication of the cables has caused no loss of life, troops are not being mobilized, and the only real diplomatic crisis is merely one of discomfort. The idea that the last three weeks have been a disaster is self-evidently preposterous. Yet the leaks are of unprecedented importance because, at a stroke, they have enlightened the masses about what is being done in their name and have shown the corruption, incompetence and sometimes wisdom of our politicians, corporations and diplomats. More significantly, we have been given a snapshot of the world as it is, rather than the edited account agreed upon by diverse elites, whose only common interest is the maintenance of their power and our ignorance.
The world has changed, not simply because governments find they are just as vulnerable to the acquisition, copying and distribution of huge amounts of data as the music, publishing and film businesses were, but because we are unlikely to return to the happy ignorance of the past. Knowing Saudi Arabia has urged the bombing of Iran, that Shell maintains an iron grip on the government of Nigeria, that Pfizer hired investigators to disrupt investigations into drug trials on children, also in Nigeria, that the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI, is swinging both ways on the Taliban, that China launched a cyber attack on Google, that North Korea has provided nuclear scientists to Burma, that Russia is a virtual mafia state in which security services and gangsters are joined at the hip and knowing all this in some detail means we are far more likely to treat the accounts of events we are given in the future with much greater skepticism
It is all about power and who has access to information. Nothing else In the WikiLeaks cables, knowledge and the editing and reporting skills found in the old media, combined with the new ability to locate and seize enormous amounts of information on the web, has actually resulted in responsible publication, with names, sources, locations and dates redacted to protect peoples identities and their lives
America is sore and naturally feels exposed, but the state department would have had much less cause for regret if it had listened to Ross Anderson, the Cambridge professor often quoted in relation to Labours obsession with huge databases of personal information. His rule states that it is a mathematical impossibility to maintain a large and functional database that is also secure. Hillary Clinton must rue the day that the Bush administration built a great silo of cables that could be accessed by 3 million staff. The Chinese and Russians would never have been so trusting
Nothing but good can come from revelations about these companies [Shell and Pfizer], and in this brief moment when we have a glimpse of how things really are, we should relish the fact that publication of the cables, as well as the shameful reactions to it, have brought light, not fire. 
In conclusion Michael Rupperts 2010 film Collapse a lengthy series of interviews is a brilliant summation of this civilizations position.
Having studied these global matters for more than 30 years Im reminded of something Winston Churchill said in 1936 when, only too aware of the gathering storm over Europe and impatient with preparations to cope, he told his people:
The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. 
Our world entered a period of global consequences some time ago, but although we have been repeatedly forewarned Aurelio Pecceis and Daisaku Ikedas warning 25 years ago was but one of many similar apparently this has not resulted in any real forearming.
One particular abhorrent form of growth is best described by the 1995 report of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) entitled Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence.
The report advised that the military resources directed against the former Soviet Union be maintained, but with an expanded mission. They must now be directed against rogue states of the third world, in accord with the Pentagon view that the international environment has now evolved from a weapon rich environment [the USSR] to a target rich environment [the Third World]. STRATCOM further advised that the United States should have available the full range of responses. Nuclear weapons are the most important of these, because unlike chemical or biological weapons, the extreme destruction from a nuclear explosion is immediate, with few if any palliatives to reduce its effect, and even if not used, nuclear weapons always cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict, enabling us to gain our ends through intimidation. Nuclear weapons seem destined to be the centerpiece of US strategic deterrence for the foreseeable future. We must reject a no first use policy, and should make it clear to adversaries that our reaction may either be response or preemptive. The national persona we project should make clear that the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked and that some elements may appear to be potentially out of control.
Forty years earlier, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein had warned that we face a choice that is stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall man renounce war? 
Russell and Einstein were not exaggerating. What makes humankinds position even more tenuous now is that nuclear weapons have grown greatly in power since the days of Hiroshima while stocks of warhead uranium are readily available on the black market. One must agree with General Lee Butler when he wrote over a decade ago that throughout his long professional military career he had been among the most avid of these keepers of the faith in nuclear weapons, but that now it was his burden to declare with all of the conviction I can muster that in my judgement they served us extremely ill. Butler then raised a very pressing question: By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear-weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestations?  These questions remain unanswered.
In 1891 Paul Gauguin escaped from the modern world to the Pacific Islands in search of answers to three questions.
While the first two questions are still of great interest, the third question is especially relevant. The UKs chief scientist, Astronomer Royal and President of the UK Royal Society, Lord Martin Rees, in his March 2010 talk in Wellington, The World in 2050, called for a massive effort similar to the Manhattan Project or the Marshall Plan to combat our worsening situation. James Lovelock provides a realistic answer:
Our wish to continue business as usual will probably prevent us from saving ourselves. So we must adapt as best we can and try to ensure that enough of us survive to allow a more capable species to evolve from us. Homo sapiens has the information to know itself for what it is an Ice Age hunter only half-evolved towards intelligence; clever but seldom wise. 
On reading this paper I should sincerely hope it was obvious that our civilisation has got itself into an almost overwhelming mess. One might say hopeless, but that would be to deny all of humankinds successes and aspirations. Weve been travelling the wrong road for much too long. I recommend that you again read the World Scientists Warning to Humanity and Albert Bartletts talk Arithmetic, Population and Energy, for therein lie a great wealth of cogent information. Countless proposals already exist to improve our lot and if I elaborated it would only extend the list. But there are some ideas worth reiterating.
It is my opinion that unless the world comes to fully understand as expeditiously as possible the implications of living on a finite Earth with finite resources and places its governments on a Churchillian footing, this civilisations destruction, like those of the past, is assured. I feel much like the environmentalist David Suzuki.
Like most other people, Id rather spend time with my family, go to the lab and do research in my field of genetics, or pursue my hobbies. But I have children and grandchildren. I have a profound stake in the future. Im only one person, and I have no illusions or conceits about saving the world. But I hope my grandchildren will never look at me and tell me, Grandpa, you could have done more for us. 
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