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In the World We Live in, the Economy Trumps the Ecology Every Time

Even though without an Ecology there is no Economy, we as a society treat the Economy as if it was more important. David Suzuki’s Legacy lecture in Perth explains this phenomenon in lucid terms.

Here are some key insights to take fromt the lecture:

  1. What is the intrinsic value of our ecological systems?
    In our economic system, nature does not have any value unless it can be commoditised. The service that our oceans, forests, mountains, rivers and other natural ecological systems provide is ineradicably linked for our survival in this planet. Yet under our current economic system, these ecological systems have no value in themselves. For example, in today’s and especially tomorrow’s world rich countries may “pay poorer ones not to cut down trees” and sell them for money.
  2. What grows indefinitely?
    Unfortunately, the answer to that appears to be the human population. Normally, when we talk about population growth we talk from a perspective of the last 50 years. For example, the picture below shows the population growth for the last 60 years and its projections for the next 40. However, there are two things that are misleading about the picture: one, it is in logarithmic scale and therefore the slope is not very insightful, and two, the total chart spans only 100 years, allowing for the slope to be even more gradual.

World Population Growth (in Millions) by Continent in Logarithmic ScaleWorld population (UN)

However, when you take away the logarithmic scale, and zoom out to a 12,000 year span the picture is much more indicative of what is really going on.

World Population Growth (in Billions)

After the lecture, there was one man that asked David what should he do with his life, how should he get out of the rat race. Our current society is telling him to be ambitious, to be successful, to provide for his family. However, what society is really telling him is that he has to earn lots of money and be responsible for managing many individuals or resources, and provide his family with a big house, a nice car, a nice phone and many other possessions.

What should he do?

David was wise not to answered that. At the end of the day, that question has to be answered independently by each of us.