Listen to Radio 4 - BBC Radio Player

Planet Earth Under Threat

Environment is now Cool

  • Julian Hector
  • 26 Jan 07, 09:37 AM

meerkats.jpg
The study of ecology can give us some important insights into our behaviour - And enviroment is now cool, there's surely a moment to be seized in a quest to find a sustainable future.

The UK organic food campaigning NGO The Soil Association are holding their annual conference today. Their key theme is "one planet agriculture". And I heard a spokesperson on national radio this morning being asked whether organic food flown into the UK is truly organic. And the overall answer was...that flying food is a costly business in every sense, even when compared to road freight (especially if moving bulk by lorry stops large numbers of individuals travelling in their own cars). The point is made, air miles on food might counter some of the foods organic credentials. If the rapidly expanding market for buying organic food sustains - And let's say (which hasn't been said formally by those who decide on such matters) that organic food flown into the UK is no longer organic because of the cost to the environment - does that huge UK market then buy only locally distributed organic food? I sense localism, and within it, community is going to be the big torque wrench in the tool box over the next ten years as we try to off set the causes of global warming and loss of biodiversity.

Is everyone buying organic food - or is it only the worried well (the worried who can afford it)? And in terms of trying to combat climate change is not localism the more important factor. Organic farming arguably is better in terms of biodiversity and not loading our landscape with chemicals...but if we can make all locally grown food cheap for everyone then the effect on reducing road and air miles surely would be phenominal.

In animals, societies emerge - over a very long period of time - when the interests of the individual are the same as the interests of the group. A group of monkeys, meerkats or ants live together in a sustainable society because the individuals share common interests that make group living have a much greater survival value than living alone. In their cases, co-operative foraging, protection from predators and maintaining the nest respectively. Of course by "agreeing" to live in a group you then get politics as individuals vie to control reproduction.

If localism is becoming the big thing, then the era of our individualistic thinking has to come to an end. Localism will be sustainable if a new sense of community builds - And the insight from wild animal populations is that individual and group interest must be the same.

The human race is virtually unique on earth - an animal that intensifies the world about them. The domestication of animals and plants 10,000 years ago or so allowed people to cease being nomadic and to settle in communities and farm the land around them. In doing so, they could support a population way above the "carrying capacity" of their immediate surroundings. In todays world, that intesification is on a global scale - and clearly this is unsustainable. We are already beyond the carrying capacity of the earth if everyone alive today were to have "our" same living standards and access to food.

So the challenge is to define the boundaries of localism, which might mean that our current model of gargantuan cities where you can be a stranger in a crowd simply cannot go on.

we need to know where our food comes from, how our energy is generated and how much we use - And like we see the decline in the super 4x4 market ("the Chelsea Tractor") - so might sourcing exotic products from far away lands as staples become uncool.

James Lovelock told us in an interview for PEuT, that we didn't broadcast, that tribal people all come together in the face of immediate danger...he thinks we're all tribal at heart. A clear example of when individual and group interest are the same. But we're bright and forward thinking (aren't we?) - we don't have to wait until the 11th hour - the get out or die out stage.

How can the spirit of shared interest pervade society and spawn functioning communities with a philosophy of sustainable living? - And can a sprit of localism help reduce the global plundering of resources?

What does it take? Some on this series think it comes down to public education. Others believe the market can make the change happen - others a combination of both including designing into our lives the technical efficiences needed to reduce energy demands.

But environment is now cool - There's a growing desire to seize the moment - But when will individual and group interest be the same? That will be the day sustainable-living communities will emerge in the towns and cities, and herald the way forward for us all.

Comments  Post your comment

Julian,

Brilliant! Localism is cool with me, and has been for a long time. Education and the market can both play their parts, but it needs individuals to gather from the bottom. We have gained our 'independence' from each other at the cost of total dependence on the Global Behemoth and our quarreling over-centralised Bureaucracies.

As Hesiod sang some 2800 years ago.

But when judges judge straight, for neighbors As well as for strangers, and never turn their backs On Justice, their city blossoms, their people bloom. You'll find peace all up and down the land And youngsters growing tall, because broad-browed Zeus Hasn't marked them out for war. Nor do famine or blight Ever afflict folk who deal squarely with each other. They feast on the fruits of their tended fields, And the earth bears them a good living too. Mountain oaks yield them acorns at the crown, Bees and honey from the trunk. Their sheep Are hefty with fleece, and women bear children Who look like their parents. In short, they thrive On all the good things life has to offer, and they Never travel on ships. The soil's their whole life. ...

...Invite your friend to a feast, leave your enemy alone,
And be sure to invite the fellow who lives close by.
If you've got some kind of emergency on your hands,
Neighbors come lickety-split, kinfolk take a while.
A bad neighbor's as much a curse as a good one' s a Blessing.
You've got a real prize if you've got a good neighbor.
Nary an ox would be lost if it weren't for bad neighbors.
Get good measure from a neighbor and give back as good,
Measure for measure, or better if you're able,
So when you need something later you can count on him then.


Vaya con Gaia
ed
26/01/2007 at 19:06:30 GMT

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
  • 2.
  • At 09:07 PM on 26 Jan 2007,
  • Spir-An wrote:

I'd like to make a suggestion as to how we might advance the ecological cause at this time. A programme that actually takes on the Global Warming/Climate Change sceptics and their claims. I know there is some resistance to this among the convinced scientists and campaigners, since they think the issue is settled and to deal with the sceptical opinions seriously is to give them importance they don't deserve, but you see there would be an ulterior motive. The series would be a means of explaining to the general public exactly WHY scientists think we are in GW and CC, and exactly WHAT will happen and what we can do about it.

I know you have touched on these questions in this series (PEuT), but only superficially, and as you have seen sceptics have popped up in the blog comments, unconvinced. Let's get the details of the argument out in the open, step by step. We shouldn't be afraid of boring or confusing the public with complex and abstruse science and statistics. Rather, we should be afraid if anything of the public not being sufficiently motivated to change their lives because they have never had the nitty-gritty explained to them properly. PEuT has provided an overview of the problem, some pieces of evidence of it happening, some informed speculation on what will happen, some suggestions about how we might change etc. I'd like to see something deeper, something that might really get thru to listeners/viewers/readers (it would make a good book/film/TV series as well) and change their attitudes and practices at root.

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 

Great Blog.

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
  • 4.
  • At 03:24 PM on 30 Jan 2007,
  • martin bemment wrote:

The use of ground source heating can be very effucient when used for a block of flats.

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
  • 5.
  • At 01:31 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Spir-An wrote:

If anyone is any doubt as to how much Climate Change Scepticism is around, check out the "Have Your Say" thread "Climate Change: To act or not?" here: http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?threadID=5386 You'll see there's the most amazing resistance to the notion. These people are probably going to be deaf to PEuT, since they will see it as assuming what they disbelieve. They need a programme that addresses their beliefs as much as those of CC believers.

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
  • 6.
  • At 11:51 PM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • JohnEDPMalin wrote:

The eco-imagination must focus on the "elephant in the room" syndrome when dealing with sceptics of global climate change.

How does one teach a fellow human mind who has less than 15,000 words in their brain, no competent higher mathematics, and a congenital mental defect to master elementary physics and chemistry? It should never be forgotten the extraordinary scholarship of scientific savants who postulated these ecological notions based on observational evidence of the last 23 centuries [Aristotle's Historia Animalia is the beginning].

Our use of stunning cinematography and computer graphics is the tool to be employed with the ignorant masses who are extremely proud of their vulgar insular un-attainments!

When one ponders the absurdity of the great majority of humans who still actually function with outmoded belief systems [one would be shocked as to how many humans still go to church and believe in the incoherent notion of God or deity---their minds are not capable of authentic & authoritative knowledge due to sloth, vanity or greed], instead of simply "knowing" or "suspending judgment," is it not understandable that there would be sceptics of eco-imaginative,lucid scientific concepts? These diminished minds neither observe, measure nor understand the world they live in.

The solution to these definite ecological scenarios, be they catastropic or cataclysmic, is only human de-population.

Since our genetic system only programs us to eat, to sex and to die [What we share with all active biologic systems, plants or animals], our solution must entail the decimation of 4.9 billion human beings, since the carrying capacity for human global population density is 1.5 billion humans. A simple filtering of the four Laws of Thermodynamics through Earth's various ecological landscapes yields this quantity.

How will this decimation take place? Famine, Disease, Warcarft or altering of the gaseous composition of our aerial terrestrial atmosphere is most probable. Our Planet Earth might be more fortunate to have an excessive volcanism erupt or a hit by a huge celestrial rock to tidy up this Planet Earth.


Respectfully,


John E.D.P. Malin, Esq. M.A.
Cecilia, Louisiana, U.S.A.

P.S. These comments posted here by my fellow contributors are urbane, sensible and highly intelligent. Regretfully, this is not the character traits of the great majority of the decision-makers in our present age and era.

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
  • 7.
  • At 11:57 PM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • JohnEDPMalin wrote:

The eco-imagination must focus on the "elephant in the room" syndrome when dealing with sceptics of global climate change.

How does one teach a fellow human mind who has less than 15,000 words in their brain, no competent higher mathematics, and a congenital mental defect to master elementary physics and chemistry? It should never be forgotten the extraordinary scholarship of scientific savants who postulated these ecological notions based on observational evidence of the last 23 centuries [Aristotle's Historia Animalia is the beginning].

Our use of stunning cinematography and computer graphics is the tool to be employed with the ignorant masses who are extremely proud of their vulgar insular un-attainments!

When one ponders the absurdity of the great majority of humans who still actually function with outmoded belief systems [one would be shocked as to how many humans still go to church and believe in the incoherent notion of God or deity---their minds are not capable of authentic & authoritative knowledge due to sloth, vanity or greed], instead of simply "knowing" or "suspending judgment," is it not understandable that there would be sceptics of eco-imaginative,lucid scientific concepts? These diminished minds neither observe, measure nor understand the world they live in.

The solution to these definite ecological scenarios, be they catastropic or cataclysmic, is only human de-population.

Since our genetic system only programs us to eat, to sex and to die [What we share with all active biologic systems, plants or animals], our solution must entail the decimation of 4.9 billion human beings, since the carrying capacity for human global population density is 1.5 billion humans. A simple filtering of the four Laws of Thermodynamics through Earth's various ecological landscapes yields this quantity.

How will this decimation take place? Famine, Disease, Warcarft or altering of the gaseous composition of our aerial terrestrial atmosphere is most probable. Our Planet Earth might be more fortunate to have an excessive volcanism erupt or a hit by a huge celestrial rock to tidy up this Planet Earth.


Respectfully,


John E.D.P. Malin, Esq. M.A.
Cecilia, Louisiana, U.S.A.

P.S. These comments posted here by my fellow contributors are urbane, sensible and highly intelligent. Regretfully, this is not the character traits of the great majority of the decision-makers in our present age and era.

Complain about this post

Post a complaint

Please note Name and E-mail are required.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 

Post a comment

Please note name and email are required.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

Required
Required (not displayed)
 
    

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

bbc.co.uk