View Full Version : Forty-eight years of world growth has left us poorer

14 Jun 18, 14:18
Growth. Is it sustainable for the planet? Take the Chinese system, the US system or the EU system -these all measure their progress in terms of growth. The systems all depend on growth to generate their income.

Between 1970 and today, global population has doubled to 6,800 million (US Census Bureau, International database). In the same period, the global economy quadrupled to 13,870 thousand million dollars (U.N. Data).

But here's the effect of all this growth. The populations of Earth’s wild mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and other vertebrates declined by more than half. Since 1970, the Earth's vertebrate population(excluding humans) declined by 58% (Living Planet Report 2016 (http://assets.wwf.org.uk/custom/lpr2016/) by the WWF).

Activities such as deforestation, poaching and human-induced climate change are in large part to blame for the decline. There is no sign that the rate of destruction will decrease.

“Across land,freshwater and the oceans, human activities are forcing species populations and natural systems to the edge,” says Marco Lambertini, director-general of WWF International

The problem with the growth model on a finite, declining planet and a damaged biosphere is that we are basically eating into the seed-corn of the next generation and the one after that.

To put it another way, average middle-aged people may witness 500 million years of evolutionary history wiped out, since the time they were in primary school.

What's going to be left of the remaining 40% of the natural world, by the time their kids are adult?

It's hugely problematical, of course. It's a global issue, and there's no administration capable of organising a global response. The United Nations is the nearest we have to a world forum, and experience shows us how ineffective the UN can be when addressing truly important matters. Sadly, the leaders of the world's nations always put self-interest ahead of universal co-operation.

The Buddha lived and taught long before the world was threatened by human activity, so we can't expect to find any direct advice in the Pali canon. But Buddhism provides a complete philosophy of how to live our life, and we can look to the teachings to influence our attitude to these problems.

Impermanence(anicca) is a part of the three marks of existence in Buddhism. All conditioned existence is subject to change. All is transient, everything is subject to decline and destruction. The Buddha taught that because no physical or mental object is permanent, desire for or attachment to either causes suffering (dukkha).

That doesn't mean we are expected to add to the continuing degradation of the environment. We should try to do no harm, show kindness to all animals and all humans.

Planet Earth was circulating around the sun for millions of years before humans took shape, and who knows, it may continue on the same path for millions of years after humanity has passed away.

14 Jun 18, 19:17
Hi Woodscooter

Thanks for your post, very thought inspiring, although not new, I can remember back in the 1980's that the university I attended was talking about sustainability issues, at that time what sticks in my mind was that they said the industrialized west where using six times the worlds resource if the standard of living was spread all over the globe.

If you are waiting for change to come from a political movement, I suspect you will wait for a long time, someone once described the human understanding of reality like a drunken party, inebriated people, confused and lurching from one 35 second sound bite to another.

For me Bertrand Russell said it all when he said " The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."

15 Jun 18, 11:49
Hi, woodscooter.

Thank you for addressing what seems to many a critical issue as to the quality of life on our planet:

"What's going to be left of the remaining 40% of the natural world, by the time their kids are adult?"

My reflective mental responses to this question arise in complex varieties:

1. No one can possibly know the precisely correct outcome, because we are asking about "the future", which changes with but the fluttering of butterfly wings.

2. What did the dinosaurian population think would happen to them just before a planet altering meteor visited their planet's surface and drastically altered their current ecological system?

3.Who can truly say which outcome of any given disaster scenario is the best in the short and long of it?

Karmic consequences are not only playing out for humans merely because of their reproductive behaviors supported by national governments (as you say) of our ostensibly modern reproductive behavior since 1970, but are also in reality bearing fruit to the results of millions of year of human reproductive behavior since mankind as all life arose from the primordial ooze.

Given some thought and additional reflection, we must agree to the accuracy of what Buddha revealed in The Acintita Sutta. We and all of our behaviors are but the result of the actions of the very same DNA molecules which caused the arising of all life on this planet including us dastardly modern villains, who are overly reproducing ourselves into a world filled with dukkha, dukkha and more dukkha for decades upon decades to come as is the right observation of gloom and doom sayers. Along with The Buddha, their vision seems to be 20/20 as to dukkha and its fact.

Buddha warned us of the consequences of such conjecture here:

"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?
"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.
"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...[2]
"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...
conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.
"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

IMHO the continuous arising and reassertion of such speech accurately readdresses the imponderables of which Buddha spoke (spake?): "ultimate kamma":
"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

.The source for further study: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html

17 Jun 18, 22:52
Unfortunately the “growth” wasn’t shared growth, it was a transfer of power, wealth, and resources obtained through the reduction of bio and social diversity, which are both vital for health. It was accomplished by mass re-education away from socially compassionate ideals to those of indulgent self interest.

Diversity is a key ingredient for spiritual, social and environmental health. The content of the diverse ingredients have to be correct according to true need and function. If the definition and understanding of true need is distorted and the purpose of function is deflected and creates disfunction then there will be trouble. And there is, socially and environmentally.

It is very hard not to include politics in the discussion, but it is a lot less inflammatory when we don’t. I find it difficult to avoid finding others to blame and then to enjoy reviling them and wishing ill upon their heads. A personal, inner danger is in simply indulging in anger, impotent, since the global solutions seem so far out of reach.

Anger is described as having “… a poisoned root and honeyed tip.” (See: The Slaying of Anger. SN 11:21, CDB337,. Or P51 of “The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony” from the Pali Canon. Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi Wisdom publications.)

22 Jun 18, 11:59
Yes, the solutions to the mess humanity has got itself into are way beyond our individual means.

Even though the human brain is clever and resourceful, our skills have been directed at making wasteful industrial processes and, through armaments, improved ways of killing one another.

The planet cannot take much more of this abuse. The message has been spoken loud for the past 50 years, at least. More than a generation for sure. But our global response has been weak, timid and ineffective.