Limits to Progress

Perhaps the greatest existential threat to humanity resides within.
We are faced with annihilation by the atomic bomb, the CO2-atmosphere climate calamity, the biodiversity and environmental destruction predicament and the over-population crisis which includes ever-expanding economic growth, because "the economy" is simply the sum total of human activity and of course, war and strife on every level - international and on down to inter-personal. Do you actually accept all this badness as normal for the human species? Or could these features of our species have another purpose that we have not explored?

An essential element of this biosphere is its various means to regulate the numbers of any species by a variety of factors including bacteria, viruses, natural disasters, etc. And for the human species, the "smart" ones (sapiens), Nature to Her credit also hard-wired in a number of self-destruct features.
Do you argue this cannot be? Just look around at the evidence piling up everywhere and connect the dots. You can see that the bad features of humanity occur when we simply react rather than thinking through the consequences of our actions. We have a choice on climate. We have the opportunity to choose peace over war. We can learn when enough is enough on population numbers. We can choose a simpler life.

Yet governments world-wide push fast-forward on all these fronts - expanding fossil-fuel projects, going gung-ho on military "defense" build-up and enabling the population crisis by building more housing. We are in a population bubble because humanity has learned, through famine and pestilence, to "keep the pedal to the metal," always increasing the population and has never learned why - what are these vast numbers of people supposed to be doing? People will argue that the size of the population is not an issue, it is simply consumption.

But consumption times population becomes a very big number and it has become exceedingly obvious that the number of humans living is a third-rail issue that no society will touch; therefore we leave the size of our population in Nature's hands, and then we gasp at Her solutions. Compounding that issue of population and consumption is the fact that poorer people think they "deserve" to also have all the elements of "The Good Life" that they see being consumed in the rich North. In many instances, "poverty" is really "sulking in a state of denied affluence" instead of appreciating what you do have and finding a way to live in harmony with this planet, while the sulking commandeers 90% of your thought capacity. What the human species needs is to find a pathway to a simpler life and stay on it. There is no planet "B".

How can we attend to the multitude of pressing issues on this planet while war continues to be an imminent danger? Dr. Thomas W. Dodman, a professor at Columbia University, says "We think of wars beginning and ending. But we should think that war is the default template, and there are beginnings and ends to peace. Wars live on because of their lingering effects. Often the reasons for the next conflict were not fully resolved in the last one."
But can any "reasons" for wars be justified on this small blue globe?
The answer has to be that humans are a rogue species and anti-Life.

Do you really consider humans to NOT be a rogue secies?
What other species on this planet, or what alien species anywhere in the universe imagining itself to be "intelligent," would set off 1,149 nuclear bombs in 1,054 "tests" (for USA) plus about 700 more for USSR, on this amazing little blue planet? The radiation clouds shamefully circled the globe! And the nuclear arms race continues, especially with the depraved utterances of the Russian leader.

If War is our default template, then "Give Peace a Chance" (John Lennon) is inadequate; hoping that a little flower of Peace will bloom will not accomplish the goal. We must actively reject war while actively choosing peace. That applies to all aspects of life, not just to militaristic events, it applies to rejecting our war against Nature as well as racism and other interpersonal strife.

Normally, Nature employs one of her many remedies to reign in an out-of-control species, likely one of the reasons that humans try to create their own life-space outside the bounds of Nature (cities). But that makes us a parasite on this sphere, and the host must try to eliminate the parasite, especially in this circumstance where it is not a symbiotic relationship. We just take, take, and take. And worse, we take more and more with no humility, absolutely no consideration for its effect on other forms of life - as if everything on this planet exists for our pleasure.

We must re-join Life; we must embrace a simpler life.
The concept of a simpler life has already been noted in the book:
The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks, Publisher: Flatiron Books; Illustrated edition (Sept. 27 2016) 304 pages, ISBN 978-1250060266, in which Mr. Rebanks says that his grandfather explained to him the benefits of "living quietly."

These same concepts are seen in a recent post by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO: Preventing a humanity death spiral: "To prevent the current multidimensional crises from turning into a humanity death spiral, there needs to be concerted and creative efforts to bend the arc of history toward a solutions-orientated, healthier and sustainable world."

The answer is living a simpler life, "living quietly" - using less energy and resources is the best path forward. And we must stay on that path, even when the next right-wing prick-tator gains power and tries to revert to the old "normal."

This brings to mind Jared Diamond's thought that the Neolithic Revolution was humanity's worst mistake; we forsook a simpler existence for ever-increasing dependency on technology.
But herein is Nature's final exam for us:
If we are truly smart we will recognize the necessity of finding the pathway to a simpler life, and stay on that trajectory, or we will be killed off by our own cleverness.

Therefore, we must learn to recognize the signs of behaviour that lead to over-extending our place among the other living species and that includes virtually all these new supposed "Green" initiatives such as replacing the 1.2 billion cars on the planet with electric vehicles and virtually all other techno-fixes such as capturing CO2 and burying the oxygen along with the carbon. Embracing all this "progress" should prove to us that we have over-extended and taken too much of this planet in order to enable our addiction to city life.
ALL people must get by using LESS power!

Apparently we have learned no lessons from the Pandemic. This pandemic is Mother Nature's Climate Action Plan, her logical response to yet another human mono-crop, this time the human population instead of the regular agricultural mono-crops.

Isn't it amazing, the difference in response between the previous year (2019), when only the planet was dying and the next year, (2020) when HUMANS were dying?
What we have done to combat the virus is exactly the first steps to mitigating climate change, but world leaders would not act in the past for fear of disrupting the economy. The economy is in disarray, so that excuse is bogus; let's move forward rebuilding a simpler existence devoid of air travel and tourism (which facilitate disease spread) and unnecessary consumerism.

My main point economically is that a major part of the economy exists merely for the relief of human boredom, it is truly non-essential activity. The COVID issue demonstrates the low numbers of workers that are truly "essential" and how poorly they are treated and paid for their work.

This is not a once-in-a-generation opportunity, this is a once-in-history chance to correct past errors, if anyone has the leadership capabilities to start that process, but likely the business-government-1% complex will attempt to return to "normal" ASAP. This is how the death of the planet truly came about. Note that humans have not passed a law making them exempt from extinction.

And now, in the aftermath of huge government spending to prop up the economy, nobody will have any money to spend on climate change mitigation for at least 2-3 generations, all this debt will have to be repaid. Oops, that's 2100 already!

Debt is a huge social problem, it is the new form of slavery. An interesting but little-known fact about debt is that, once created, it is permanent, and can only be transferred from one person or place to another. The burden of international debt is the main driver of world-wide environmental destruction and is the flip-side of colonialism - countries have to sell their "furniture" (environment) to pay the "rent" to the colonial powers. Debt can only be abolished when 1) paid back, 2) defaulted on or 3) forgiven. Otherwise it is just passed from one to another and should never have been created in the first place. The problem is massive world, government, business and personal debt and on top of all that, environmental debt, all incurred because ALL PEOPLES attempt to live beyond their means and have borrowed (stolen) from all future generations financially, and environmentally from Life itself, and now need about 7 planets to maintain our lifestyles.

Recently an author was claiming that the thing that separates humans from animals is our use of fossil fuels instead of living on incoming energy inputs from the Sun. But this is incorrect and is the result of shallow thinking. As I figured out back in 1972 and have said for years now, in an attempt to boil it down to two simple rules for humans to adopt in order to live in harmony with this planet, it is the use of fire itself that is the problem - do not use fire for anything except cooking (and the other rule - do not dig deeper than 6" into the ground). It is the use of fire which sets humans apart from animals. But without the use of fire, we are "pushed back" into subsistence living - oh wait, that's how the other animals live!

And there can be more disease issues yet to appear, besides new variants of COVID. Perhaps one of the new viral variants will be more successful in controlling this rogue population, otherwise Nature can use one of Her fall-back mechanisms, one of our built-in self-destruct features - nuclear war or environmental destruction. You see, we were made so clever as to be able to split the atom and to tamper with the Book of Life (the genetic code), and while also being smart enough to see these pitfalls, are too complacent and full of ourselves to get off the path to destruction.

Given that we ignored all previous warnings about over-population, we can forget about returning to "normal" as many so-called leaders describe it these days. "Normal" was actually an extension of the 1960s well past its best-before date. And their vision of the "Future" is simply a glorified version of the past. Since we are now stuck with existing in this population bubble, from now on "Normal" consists of permanent on-going biosecurity measures just as we enact for our animal mono-crops. You just don't move pigs between barns willy-nilly; you just don't have visitors to your barns anymore. By "barns" I mean countries. So the elimination of travel and tourism is a win-win situation for both human health and reducing CO2 emissions.

So here's your choice, people: Learn to be Smart! Recognize that the apparent defects in human nature (wars, etc.) are built-in controls to regulate the numbers of a rogue species, and (constantly) remember that you have a choice, to learn to live in harmony with this planet, or Nature WILL find a way to cut you down. The regulation of the population of every species is a basic tenet of Life. Learn to live quietly, a simple life, and recognize when your "leaders" are pushing civilization in a wrong direction.

Let's call this: The Limits to Progress. Not an externally- imposed limit as per the idea of "limits to growth" (see next paragraph), but an internal limit within each person - be able to recognize when we have made a step too far, and actually pull back. Life depends on it!

See also: EDITORIAL on, 16 March 2022:
"Are there limits to economic growth? It's time to call time on a 50-year argument. Researchers must try to resolve a dispute on the best way to use and care for Earth's resources."
This article re-considers the 1972 book by lead author Donella H. Meadows (1941-2001) of the System Dynamics Group at MIT, The Limits to Growth. She mentioned that the book "was written not to predict doom but to challenge people to find ways of living that are consistent with the laws of the planet." And now here we are, 50 years later, deja vu all over again!

That's a really important line (above): "...the best way to use and care for Earth's resources."
"Use and care" does not mean the current practice of selling and consuming resources as fast as possible. It implies seeing how long we can make them last, avoiding wasteful consumerism. "Use and Care" sounds like living in usufruct, that is, living on the fruits of the land, not shredding it to make car batteries or raising grain to make ethanol to feed cars.

Let's go back a minute to the above mention of tampering with "The Book of Life".
The Book of Life is the genetic code folded up in every cell. Humans in their ignorance, have learned how to cut and splice that code. But they barely have any understanding of how it all works. They can see how the adult of a species operates, but exponentially more complex than that is the development stage of that living organism, how it developed from its first single cell. Yet they have begun cutting and splicing!
In an article in The Globe and Mail, Professor of Genetic Engineering, Dr. Samira Kiani, cautions about this genetic editing work. "At this point, we have little ability to anticipate the unintended consequences that might result from germline editing, but such uncertainties have not stopped the forces of hubris in the past. Nor have they stopped the forces of capital."

But can't this be said about virtually every aspect of human "progress"? Such as the introduction of plastics into an environment that DEPENDS on every material being re-usable in the cycles of life. Or the introduction (more every year) of industrial, agricultural and domestic chemicals, most of which are now very persistent. And ignoring the thousands of years for nuclear wastes to decay in order to have our lights on for a few hours. Or the ongoing destruction of soils, pollution of waterways, filling Space with garbage, and of course the ONGOING burning of millions of years of fossil fuels, which were properly sequestered carbon, in just a few generations. This is the ongoing legacy of "Progress" and we had best learn to "just say No" before it really is Too Late.
For each step onward in human "progress," ask yourselves: Is this action part of our war against Nature, part of our "supremacy of humans" above all other forms of life?

Regarding the use of unnecessary and persistent chemicals, take this one example - "sunscreen". Humans go to the beach then ironically slather on "sunscreen" so they don't burn. Why go then? Why despoil a beautiful place which is also a sensitive ecosystem, just to exchange your boredom for enjoyment? Here's what happens to that sunscreen which washes off while you splash in the waves - Sea anemones, which are similar to corals, make oxybenzone water-soluble by tacking a sugar onto it. This inadvertently turns it into a molecule that is activated by sunlight and can damage cells leading to coral bleaching. Read more at

Please revisit Dr. Martin Luther King's speech of April 2, 1967: "Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break the Silence" on Tom Dispatch. MLK was rebuking society's clutch of racism, materialism and militarism. In his final words at that address in April 1967, he declared:

"We are now faced with the fact, that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.
Procrastination is still the thief of time.
Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.
The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood - it ebbs.
We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on.
Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words:
'Too Late.

Can we begin to define the Limits to Progress before it is too late?
Setting "Limits to Progress" is less amorphous and easier to define than trying to set limits to growth. It is more specific, it causes us to decide which goals and dreams have no place in this syetm of Life.

There are so many instances where we over-stepped our welcome on this planet, by not setting any limit to our Progress, beginning with our fondness of war and often not keeping an eye on "what are the boys doing out in the garage?" in the time of the Manhattan Project, building those A-bombs, top secret, of course; tampering with the Book of Life via CRISPR gene editing; the "collective insanity of humanity" in the production of plastics into a biosphere which requires circular use of all materials; the ongoing release of more new persistent chemicals into the environment; continued loss of top soils; an attempt to replace 1.2 billion cars with electric models; plans to re-build every house on the planet; our propensity for literally putting ourselves above Nature by flying; and the ongoing noise and light pollution on land, at sea and in the air. And many more!
Can we get this all stopped? Can we learn when "Enough is Enough?" Can we choose to set some Limits to Progress?

Remember, you read that here first, please footnote it! This was first posted April 10, 2022.

Remember these days. Remember the sunlight and the rain. Yet be joyful - any day without nuclear winter is a good day! And, if you are really lucky, you may get to tell your grandchildren about this lead-up to WWIII. We're faced with a silver-back with an empire fantasy; we're faced with another silver-back throwing air-power juvenile-male tantrums anytime important people visit Taiwan. On the third pole of Orwell's 1984 permanent-war triumvirate is a certain fossil.

Yet people just love to push War to the limit (or beyond), that seems to be the plan, since nuclear power looks like the logical end-point of the male brain thought process, and everyone is just supposed to go along with it (lemmings?). People just have to demand better governance!

At present, I am proposing what I call The Grand Bargain, which might result in world peace:
NATO is an evil in this world as previously mentioned but has been built up to such an extent that it makes an excellent bargaining chip.

Without naming any international bad actors, let us propose to the world that in exchange for disbanding NATO, the Security Council of the UN will be upgraded so that it actually serves its intended purpose. There will be no "permanent members;" all members will be appointed by the General Assembly from a list of nations ranked in order of how well they have provided peace, order and good governance and generally improved living conditions in their countries, during the previous five years.

Nations which have instigated wars inside or outside their borders are proscribed. The principal activity of the Security Council will be to promote peace and prohibit all wars in and between nations. We cannot pretend to have a civilization on this small blue planet as long as war is an ever-present option.

The Security Council will have the power to call any offending nation to the floor of the General Assembly to explain to the world how they intend to provide peace, order and good governance in lands they control; otherwise, they immediately lose sovereignty and become dependencies of the UN.

Then, having established that sovereignty is not a singular property of a nation but rather an attribute conferred upon it by the consensus of the world community, we can make progress on getting nations to live in usufruct, living on the fruits of the land, rather than tearing it apart for profit. Thus the intended actions of China, for example, would be ruled out, that being their desire to fully "develop" their "Great Western Storehouse," meaning their intention to mine the Tibet Plateau down to sea-level or below in their quest for world-dominance in mineral production.

Then the next step should be agreeing to not one more sacrifice zone - anywhere on the planet. If we can't stop creating sacrifice zones in our war against Nature with the concurrent drive for maximizing profit, how can we ever insure that there is space on this planet for evolution to resume? Allowing space for evolution to begin working again is paramount in any effort to enhance biodiversity - how are all the new species supposed to develop that can endure the polluted planet that we are gifting the future? But can there be an end to sacrifice zones, doesn't that nix our attempts to rip up the planet finding enough lithium (UC Davis .pdf file) etc., to make the world's desired 1.2 billion EVs? Well, certainly, that contradiction underlines our need to set Limits to Progress.

Part of the work on ending the creation of sacrifice zones would be the end to subsidies by governments, banks and businesses which subsidize the destruction of the environment. See the Feb. 2022 article in Carbon Brief.

And no, you can't "offset" sacrifice zones by saying "we have protected biodiversity in this little spot, to offset our destruction of this other spot." No, it all has to stop, sorry.

Protecting the environment, Nature and biodiversity is a task for each person, every day, this work can't all be shoved onto government's desk in futile attempts to create little spots of biodiversity on someone else's land far away. Observe all that is around you - is that what this planet looks like?

Look, people - WAKE UP! We are living on a small blue planet protected from outer space by very thin atmosphere which we are trying to destroy ASAP. This little planet is spinning at about 1670 km/h at the equator, or about 460 m/second. We are flying around the sun at the speed of almost 30 km/s, or travelling about 2600 km every day. This planet is all we have, all that supports life, and we are at war with Nature and with each other. Watch this, see what we're doing to the atmosphere!

In reviewing all of the above, it looks as if I am suggesting that we all live like Tom Bombadil, have a look at his Wikipedia page. Which would be lovely, except that in modern times, we have the hand of that anachronistic social structure (government) always in our pockets.

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Kathleen McCroskey by way of the Mail page.
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