Are readers of this blog watching 39 ways to Save the Planet on Radio 4? The risk of ecological breakdown could be kept at bay by these practical, technological products of human ingenuity..
But my question remains:
Why only now?
Why was action not taken in 1972, when Limits to Growth made the problem public? Why did the USA government, after being given the same scientific advice as long ago as 1964, decide to keep it secret?
CV19 has made only a slight dent in the upward trajectory of CO2 in the atmosphere, regardless of the December 2025 Paris Accord. These thirty-nine bright, sensible ideas should have been put in hand in 1964.
Why only now?
I am not knocking these ideas Every one of them is desperately needed to keep a long predicted catastrophe at bay But there’s the rub. They would only keep a life-threatening threat to the entire ecosphere temporarily at bay, not remove it permanently. they will all be necessary elemients in a sustainable society, The Earthshot Project has put big money in support of practical innovations.
But they will need a catalyst.
The two reasons which I identify for this need are outlined in more detail in the ‘:Pages’ of this weblog, but briefly they are that profits (5 decades so far) of corporations large enough to bully many democratic states, and the temporary hiccup in growth which no democratically elected government dare mention to its electorate.
I am indebted via Darren Johnson for this insight which might help to explain why not any earlier?
Being shaky in my use of the internet, here is the text of Darren’s Facebook posting:
Does anyone remember 10 or 12 years ago when so many people in the green movement were utterly obsessed with peak oil? I always thought it was a massive c from the serious business of winning the public over on climate measures. I’m glad they stopped going on about it.
12Mike Shone, Sue Mallender and 10 others
Among those comments was a speculation that humans were programmed (not the exact words) to need an enemy . Apologies, to the actual author of that quote, I cannot now find it. (The same insight could also explain the strange preoccupation with gender issues, when the far more serious threat to the ecosphere remains unanswered. But I digress).
About 200,000 years ago a hominid chanced upon mutations such as speech, which allowed it to expand into regions and use the environment in ways not available to its ancestors.
Such a species would begin a period of exponential growth, which would have two consequences: a realization that other tribes were also expanding, and were therefore a threat, and that survival meant new ways of outwitting neighbours in the competition for resources which were not expanding.
Agriculture was an early example of such an innovation. The newly clever hominid could hunt animals in ways impossible to their ancestors. The much harder work of farming only became necessary after many millennia, when populations had expanded to the point that hunting could no longer provide enough. But farmers also became more numerous than hunters.
So two things appear to make sense to humans: we are in competition with other tribes for scarce resources, and we must use our wits to defeat them.
I would wselcome anthropologists at this point, but I can think of three ways in which humans dealt with this inevitable consequence of exponential growth.
Population growth expansion was halted in Europe by Feudalism: a rigid class systemwhichlimited starvation to the powerless, though no doubt much fighting also helped prevent overpopulation. A similar stratified system,- castes – served the same purpose in India, though I am under the impression that there too there was much conflict.
Although gruesome, genocidal conflict did not threaten the whole ecological infrastructure at a time when humans did not have the technology to do so as they do now. Various so-called primirive tribes dev eloped ways of achieveing susgtainabilit, though I think homicide and warfare were not uncommon.
One system which did becme widespea wasBuddhism. That certainy worked within a community, but its limitations are demonstrated by the fate of Tibet. If Chtrist’s prediction – the Meek shall inherit the Earth – is to c ome true, the powerful have to adopt it
But in my Book “Citizens Income and Green Economics, I quote Richard Wlkinsoon (later of ‘Spirit Level fame) on a tribe who also solved tis problem. Ulike Tibet, they were not subjected to any external threat, at least not until Europeans arrived.
This posting is already too long. You will find more on what I see as a catalyst to enable those 39 bright ideas to save us in Book Resume (My core Philosophy) in my weblog ‘Pages’.
But I must close with an appeal. It woldbe nice to save the ecosphere for future generations. This 40th idea as a catalyst for theother 39 does not fit into any of Earthshot’s categories. Anyone who has some sympathy with the need for this 40th idea on how to achieve that, please help to publicise it.
Thank you Darren Johnson, and whoever replied with that insight about humans needing an enemy.