Mitigated disaster

by John Q on January 24, 2023

Over the past past few years we’ve had to deal with all sorts of new or resurgent evils, including climate catastrophe, Covid and the global assault on democracy. That’s been made harder by the fact that our political leaders (and plenty of their supporters) have either failed to respond effectively, or have actively promoted these evils. Yet there’s nothing positive about giving in to despair, either politically or personally.

In trying to respond, I’ve started thinking about the idea of ‘mitigated disaster’. Despite our collective failures on all of these issues, there’s still a good chance that the worst of the catastrophe will be staved off. And individually, we need to find ways to act responsibly and to resist the call of despair.

I’ll start with climate, because it’s the issue I have been engaged with longest and understand best. Global heating is having disastrous effects, from bushfires to heatwaves to extremes of drought and floods. And our political leaders, making judgements about what we, as citizens want, have failed to do what is clearly necessary.

But, despite all that, we’ve done far better than seemed likely 10 or 15 years ago. Nearly all major countries have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, and many have adopted policies that require the end of coal-fired electricity and petrol-driven vehicles.

Those policies aren’t adequate, but they are a long way from the ‘Business as Usual’ scenarios we were looking at not long ago. On current policies, the best estimate is that we will ultimately see 2-3 degrees of warming. That would be disastrous in all sorts of ways. But it’s not that long ago that we were thinking about 4 degrees of warming https://findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/scholarlywork/738066-australia%E2%80%99s-climate-in-a-four-degree-world, which would be catastrophic.

No matter how bad the prospects are, we still have the chance to mitigate the disaster. Every coal mine that doesn’t go ahead, every solar farm that’s installed, every waste of energy that is eliminated is a step towards a more livable future. That’s true if we are looking at 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming, and even more so if we are looking at 4 degrees.

What can we do, as individuals, to save the planet and ourselves. In a world of national targets, individual action may or not be effective in itself – it may simply allow others to do less. Even so, by modelling the kind of life we need to adopt, we may help the process along. That means things like avoiding unnecessary car and plane travel, putting free time for our family and personal goals ahead of maximising money income and making our homes as energy efficient as possible. The point is both to reduce carbon emissions and to show that we can still have a good life as most people see it – at this point, trying to persuade billions of people to forgo the benefits of modern life is a non-starter.

Things aren’t nearly so encouraging in relation to the Covid pandemic. For quite a while, it seemed as if we could manage the collective action needed to beat the pandemic. We endured lockdowns while we waited for the vaccines that would allow us to return to a normal life. But the initial vaccines were beaten by Omicron, and the effort to develop new ones seems to have flagged. Meanwhile, the combination of anti-vaxerism and general weariness have led to the abandonment of nearly all the interventions that might prevent the spread of the pandemic. With better treatment and the (now waning) benefits of vaccination, the death rate is lower than at its peak, but repeated infections are generating all sorts of adverse consequences that may be lumped under the heading of Long Covid.

The best we can say about our collective response to the pandemic is that most places avoided the worst-case consequences, such as those seen in Republican-dominated parts of the United States, where vaccination was rejected along with other interventions. And, while we’ve lost years of progress in reducing mortality rates from disease, those rates are still lower than they were, ten or twenty years ago.

Looking to the future, it is possible to see some signs of a renewed demand for political action, as the consequences of doing nothing become more and more evident, particularly in the form of collapsing health systems. But it will be a long struggle.

So, it largely comes down to individual mitigation, protecting ourselves as best we reasonably can and making it clear to others we are doing so. In my own case, I’ve got myself vaccinated as much as possible (I’m hoping to get a 5th shot through an experimental program), minimised indoor contact with others (for example, refusing in-person speaking invitations) and stuck to masks, even though I know they mostly protect the non-wearers I engage with. That’s manageable for me, but of course things are much worse for immuno-compromised and other vulnerable people

The other aspect of surviving the pandemic is mental health. The challenges are different for all of us, but I hope some of what I’ve written will be helfpul in resisting general despair about the situation. At an individual level, the most important thing for me is putting in the work to maintain contact with people, now that I can’t rely as much on meeting them in person. Skype and Zoom chats are more difficult than in-person, but we need to keep going.

Then there’s social media. What matters here is to avoid the kind of negative-obsessive behavior advertisers want, and commercial networks promote in order to keep our attention. I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid any kind of negative engagement with others. A recent step has been dumping Twitter for the friendlier climes Mastodon (though I still cross-post and occasionally succumb to the temptation of a sharp response on Twitter).

I’ve gone on for too long, so I won’t say anything more about the attack on democracy than needed to point out that we are winning more rounds than we are losing. Trump, Bolsonaro and Johnson are all gone, at least for now, and most of the dictators who seemed irresistible a few years ago (Xi, Putin and Erdogan for example) look much weaker today.

I’ll end with a couplet I cited a few years ago https://insidestory.org.au/westward-look-the-land-is-bright/ one of my favourite poets, Arthur Hugh Clough, in his poem “Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth,” which ends with these lines:
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,?But westward, look, the land is bright.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Aardvark Cheeselog 01.24.23 at 4:29 pm

On the topic of not giving in to despair, I like the treatment by Doug Muder, who anatomizes hope, optimism, pessimism, and despair:

Optimism and pessimism are beliefs about the future. Optimists expect the future to turn out well; pessimists expect it to turn out badly.
Hope and its opposite (despair) are attitudes towards the present. Hope holds that efforts to make life better are worthwhile, while despair asserts their pointlessness. Hope says, “Let’s try it” and despair answers “Don’t bother.”

“Eschew beliefs about the future and adopt appropriate attitudes about the present” is the beginning of wisdom, or at least one beginning. Easier to say than do, but has a good track record.

2

biztheclown 01.24.23 at 5:56 pm

Thank you for the poem. English major that I was, I never read it before. Needed it today.

3

Alex SL 01.24.23 at 9:27 pm

I am much less optimistic. On climate, despite all the news about progress towards renewables, the CO2 and methane per year emissions graphs are still on upward trends broken only by the odd blip during a massive global economic crisis, e.g., 2008 and 2020. Until they trend downward sharpish for years in a row I will continue to worry that the way they will ultimately go down is broad-scale economic collapse caused by global heating.

On Covid, I see really no evidence that people are revising their risk assessments even while they know colleagues who are cognitively impaired for months. It is now normal that I sit in meetings where I am the only person wearing a mask and, perhaps a neglected aspect, no online dial-in option was provided.

But yes, of course we need to do what we can ourselves. I believe it was Stoics who argued that the ideal life is to do the ethically best you can where you have control and be more relaxed about where you don’t have control anyway?

But to get more people to help mitigate disaster, it would be really useful if thousands of keyboard warriors on my half of the political spectrum would stop ridiculing individual action because supposedly all of global heating is due to twenty billionaires, and if we only expropriated those everything would supposedly be solved. (Or twenty large companies. It is always twenty, for some reason.) They seem to believe in a 1980s cartoon villain version of capitalism, where some bad guy runs a doomsday machine at a loss merely because he hates the environment, as opposed to, say, some guy running factories, cattle farms, or cruise ships because billions of people demand to be able to buy what he provides.

I assume the realisation that the job is so much harder, convincing billions to make changes to their own lifestyles versus getting them to pitchfork-and-torches twenty cartoon villains, is just too depressing for them to accept.

4

Peter T 01.25.23 at 5:03 am

There’s optimism, pessimism, Gramsci’s “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” and that very Russian “It’s hopeless and pointless and no-one’s going to stop me doing my damnedest anyway.”

5

Ray Vinmad 01.25.23 at 9:38 am

I am a hopeful pessimist. I expect things to be terrible but I try to hope anyway.

I am very concerned about the increasing emissions even while we have increased use of renewables. Something is broken in our system. I think most people who have been paying close attention for a long time are pessimistic simply because it’s so shocking that the disasters can be happening in real time, and people can ignore them, and governments can be satisfied with such inadequate incremental action given the stakes.

The pandemic also makes me pessimistic about climate because I didn’t expect people to so cavalierly embrace massive deaths of other people and increased risks for themselves and their loved ones. It’s true that polls show a majority of people wanted greater mitigation not so long ago. Perhaps everyone is waiting for a vaccine. I don’t know. It hasn’t helped that the situation is confusing as this facilitates the goal of deliberately confusing people, which is happening often.

It’s also disheartening to see as many doctors and experts spew BS to the public about covid as we have seen, and to watch governments muddle it up so badly –sometimes cynically capitalizing on the BS because it makes their jobs easier.

I thought a significant spike in deaths would bring people up short and make them more cautious for one another and more demanding of their government. It’s mystifying to me why this hasn’t happened. I’m not particularly afraid of death so I do understand why people take risks–but I cannot believe people would so thoughtlessly take risks with other people’s lives. And Americans are so risk averse! But it’s also very easy to fool them or distract them so I suppose I was being naive, there.

It’s astoundingly easy to lie and manipulate people. How do we even make sense of the past few years?

This has all made me much more aware of the ‘frog in pot’ problem. If we look around and see the ugliness and the destruction of industrialization, it’s pretty clear that people can get used to awful things, and stand by while they get worse and worse. Nevertheless, we have had moments where there was a pushback. It’s hard to understand why there is not more pushback against these trends.

In spite of the apathy, confusion and hopelessness we’re seeing, and the abysmal failure of those in power, I don’t believe people in general have changed so much that they are forever willing to accept their grim fate and can be indefinitely bamboozled and/or distracted. Historically, it hasn’t proven true that people will lie down for everything. Sometimes the people struggling for better outcomes lose the struggle. But there haven’t been many periods of unjust threats to human life and widespread injustice generally that didn’t ultimately result in collective struggle. In the short run we’re all standing around waiting for someone to do something. There’s a certain amount of trauma and shock and many of these events are disorienting. In the long run, I believe we can expect people to get their bearings and act. Climate change is unlike various other types of targets that have moved people in a better direction because it is partly caused by the foundation our societies are built upon. This may also be a reason for the delay. It’s hard to personify the causes, to see a major technological pillar of one’s society as an enemy. People haven’t usually gone to the mat to collectively organize against pure abstractions–there is usually some face to put on the cause of one’s suffering, and dissenters usually weren’t so personally entangled with the causes. But the truth is our back is against a wall and it may be that movements of the past didn’t simply arise out of prudence or idealism but out from people’s back-against-the-wall. As it become clearer and clearer, people will come to see there isn’t an alternative but to make change themselves. And just as some of the disasters we are seeing quickly transformed things, so could the increase in public action also have a significant effect. Though whether it will succeed is anyone’s guess.

6

Sashas 01.25.23 at 2:33 pm

What can we do, as individuals, to save the planet and ourselves.

Over time, I’ve increasingly strongly held the position that individually, we should act in such a way as is compatible with good collective action. The pithy version of this position being: “Don’t be a part of the problem.”

I like this approach because it almost by definition sets achievable goals. In the case of climate, for someone with little content knowledge or energy to invest, it sets a benchmark at what the people around you are doing and asks that we aim for at least not being the problem on the block. For those with more interest and energy to devote, you can set your sights higher.

I also like @Aardvark Cheeselog (1)’s suggestion to focus on the present rather than the future. I endorse hopeful pessimism, myself. I think we’re pretty well fucked. I don’t share the OP’s belief that we will see a mitigated disaster. But I will continue to not be part of the problem–because it’s the right thing to do regardless, and because I might be wrong about the future!

@Alex SL (3) I understand your frustration, but if those “thousands of keyboard warriors” have made it high enough on your “problem” list to warrant bothering to complain about them, I believe you need to rethink your priorities.

7

Trader Joe 01.25.23 at 3:30 pm

The OP raised for me the question of whether disasters (however defined) can actually be mitigated at the group level or if really they are only mitigated at the individual level.

JQ outlines some pandemic steps and mental health steps which are good and wise (and worked for him). I might offer slightly different ones that work for me. That said, Covid was/is a pandemic and I would opine that this is because for some people, despite taking what would be viewed as reasonable precautions, they still became seriously ill, developed long-term systems or worse.

The pandemic wasn’t the fault of people making bad decisions (though plenty did) its a pandemic because even making good decisions couldn’t entirely keep you safe and I think humans in general rebel at the perceived randomness of this sort of death. I mourned a relative who died yet a part of me knows it was less the virus and years of Lucky Strikes that were in play. I lament differently a colleague who was a tri-athlete and still fights the effects of long-Covid.

Climate will be much the same. Plenty will suffer despite doing all they could reasonably do to mitigate the effects, still others will survive despite being wasteful and doing nothing. The disconnect in outcomes is what is ultimately jarring. The wealthy (nations and individuals) on balance contribute the most to the problem and will be most able to mitigate/survive the outcome. Those that contribute least to the problem are the most likely to be impacted.

8

Pittsburgh Mike 01.25.23 at 4:19 pm

I’m puzzled by the comment about Omicron having defeated vaccines. When I look at my age group (65-79) at the CDC web site, the chance of death from Covid essentially vanishes if you’ve got the bivalent booster. You can see this easily from http://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#rates-by-vaccine-status .

What I don’t understand is why so few people have gotten the latest booster.

As for climate change, I’m somewhat optimistic that if we keep researching better energy storage, build some relatively safe nuclear plants, and continue to build out renewables, we can make a significant dent in CO2 emissions. But we’re definitely not doing enough of any of these things yet, and of course, we have to deal with more CO2 sources than just energy production.

My guess in this arena is that we have too much to do, in too little time, and we’re going to end up doing some geoengineering. I wish we were doing some research in that area as well, because when we finally recognize that we need it, we’re going to be desperate. And desperate people make mistakes.

9

marcel proust 01.25.23 at 6:42 pm

@Aardvark Cheeselog

That is one take on hope. Nietzsche provided another:

Hope. Pandora brought the jar with the evils and opened it. It was the gods’ gift to man, on the outside a beautiful, enticing gift, called the “lucky jar.” Then all the evils, those lively, winged beings, flew out of it. Since that time, they roam around and do harm to men by day and night. One single evil had not yet slipped out of the jar. As Zeus had wished, Pandora slammed the top down and it remained inside. So now man has the lucky jar in his house forever and thinks the world of the treasure. It is at his service; he reaches for it when he fancies it. For he does not know that that jar which Pandora brought was the jar of evils, and he takes the remaining evil for the greatest worldly good–it is hope, for Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.

The present is what it is. The future is potential and it is possible for us to influence what it will become, what it will be. Perhaps the beginning of practical wisdom is to eschew attitudes about the present and to focus on bringing about the future that we wish to come into being.

10

Alex SL 01.25.23 at 10:18 pm

Sashas,

Not sure I understand. I shouldn’t complain about other people’s behaviour on the internet in general, or specifically about other people’s behaviour that makes it more likely that complex civilisation collapses and billions of us die of starvation, diseases, and war?

11

politicalfootball 01.25.23 at 10:30 pm

Peter T@4

As the wise man said:

Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on.

12

both sides do it 01.25.23 at 11:44 pm

Hope not as a calculation of an outcome, but as a trust in a process

Hope not as a reliance on a specific condition coming to be, but in the open possibility of the future not having been written

The hope of a community in a child growing up, not to become a specific thing, but contained within the growing up

A bear closing its eyes in hibernation, hoping for spring

13

Chris M 01.26.23 at 3:12 am

Mitigated Disaster: The Story Of Human Civilization

14

MFB 01.26.23 at 8:04 am

All disasters are “mitigated” in some sense, even the Black Death or the Taiping Rebellion.

I think the reason to despair is the immense divergence between the formal means we possess to mitigate the disaster which is coming, and the actual implementation of measures to really mitigate it.

This divergence is caused by the collapse of political accountability and responsibility, the general failure of political systems across most of the world. As far as I can see there is no prospect of this collapse and failure being mitigated.

15

Sashas 01.26.23 at 3:08 pm

@Alex SL

I’m suggesting that in terms of making it “more likely that complex civilisation collapses and billions of us die of starvation, diseases, and war”, there are many people and groups that are doing that. I don’t actually think the “keyboard warriors on my half of the political spectrum [] ridiculing individual action” are making it more likely, but even if they are I would argue their effect is a rounding error at most.

My belief comes from interactions with various leftist circles, and observing two patterns:

In the first pattern, activists do their research. They figure out how a system works, how it’s failing us, etc. They figure out what can be done, and in the process they identify two things we can collectively do to “solve” the problem. (I’m simplifying here–it’s more than two–but this should illustrate the point.) One way is effective. The second way “solves” the problem but is strictly inferior to the first. It’s more expensive, slower, maybe has some kinda shitty side-effects. The activists, knowing all of this, advocate for us to do the first effective way instead of the second less effective way.

In the second pattern, almost everything is the same. Except that the activists advocate for the first effective way while carefully going out of their way to avoid bashing the second. In this second pattern, the activists note that the second way is still better than no action.

Now we get to the part that I still find weird. Notice that these are both ways to do positive activism. I argue that the second is more effective than the first. And by its own internal logic, if we adopt the second pattern, we want to minimize the amount that we shit on people following the first pattern.

I don’t know which of the two patterns resonates more with you right now. For me, my stance of “act in such a way that’s compatible with progress” is very much a pattern 2 stance. I demand that people join the fight or at least get out of the way, and I have many strong opinions about tactics, but for the most part I publicly hold that tactics are less important than direction. I try to be publicly excited by people being “on my side” even if I privately think they aren’t doing it very competently. Are there limits? Absolutely. But, uh, I have pretty low standards here.

Leftists that shit on individual action online are broadly speaking following pattern 1. They are, I believe, correct that an individual action solution to collective problems (e.g. climate change) is deeply inferior to any collective action solution. But whether or not they’re correct, they certainly believe it. And, sidenote, I get the frustration of having everyone around you consistently refuse to consider collective action for completely spurious reasons. They aren’t just shitting on individual action in a vacuum. They’ve been on the losing end of a very frustrating argument for a very long time, and that gets to you.

I need to run in a minute here, so this isn’t drafted and edited to my usual standards. To quickly recap, I’m arguing that (1) those keyboard warriors are on your side, (2) they may be ineffective but I don’t think they’re a negative influence on the whole, (3) in general complaining about them is not a positive strategy whether or not they’re very effective, and (4) even if what they’re doing is completely ineffective we should have some compassion for them. Hopefully that makes more sense now & thanks for reading!

16

Alex SL 01.26.23 at 8:14 pm

Sashas,

That is all very well as a theory of activism for cases where those are the two alternatives. But that is not what we are looking at here. Best case scenario for that stance is that they are successful, we vote in an eco-socialist world government, and they tax the top twenty billionaires out of existence. And then they will find that twenty people flying private jets around is not even a rounding error but a drop in the ocean compared to several billion people wanting to drive an SUV to the shops, own a suburban mansion with AC and excessive water usage, buy copious consumer goods for Christmas / Chinese New Year / birthdays, holiday in Tenerife or Bali twice a year, etc.

Of course, I am all for expropriating billionaires. Their existence is immoral, and concentrating that much power into an individual person is a bad idea anyway. But regarding global heating and suchlike, this is not a disagreement about the best strategy for tackling a well-understood problem, it is being in denial about the problem. Collective action would be to agree collectively that we all collectively have to live sustainably, not just have a more egalitarian unsustainable system.

17

Sashas 01.27.23 at 2:55 pm

Some quick numbers:

According to Forbes the top 20 billionaires in 2022 had a total of 2023 billion dollars between them. (Not a joke, the number actually totalled to 2023. I had to do the math twice because I didn’t believe it either.) As an aside, Forbes also notes that counting all 2668 people on their list of the “richest of the rich” gives a total wealth of 12.7 trillion.

Median US household wealth in 2020 according to the US Census Bureau was $140,800. Couple things to note: First, that’s US numbers. I consider the Census Bureau pretty trustworthy as far as US numbers go and I don’t have a trusted source for global numbers so I’m using US ones as a wildly inaccurate proxy. Forbes’s billionaires list is supposedly global. Second, I’m using median rather than average to give us a sense of the wealth of ordinary people. Wealth distribution is very heavily skewed and I think this is a better comparison than mean wealth. (If you want to use US mean wealth, I think it’s around 750k but that Census source only talks about median and percentiles.) Third: The billionaires are nominally “individual” while the median person is explicitly “household”. I think the billionaires are in practice “household” even though some of them are households of size 1. Individual median wealth would be somewhat lower.

Put together, the top 20 billionaires have the same combined wealth as about 14 million US households at the median. All of the billionaires on the Forbes list have the same wealth as 90 million US households at the median. (For context, the entire US population in 2021 was 332 million, the average US household contains 2.5 people, and so the total number of households in the US was about 133 million in 2021.)

18

engels 01.27.23 at 5:56 pm

Always Look on the Bright Side of Angelus Novus

19

Gar Lipow 01.27.23 at 8:37 pm

Note: Respirator masks actually do reduce the chance of infection by about 70% for the wearer even if no one else wears one.

But you can protect yourself better. Viruses are non-oily particles. N99 and N100 masks, especially reusable elastomeric mask with with replaceable filters. N99 masks filter out at least 99% of particles. N100 filter out at least 99.97% of particles. The difference is probably not significant, since either should reduce the viral load to the point where even as Covid grown more virulent, your immune system can fight it off before you actually get the disease. Most reusable masks have one-way valves, and thus protect the wearer, but not others. But there are valveless resuable n99s and N100s that protect both. There are also reusable valved masks with valve covers that let the mask protect both the wearer and others. In addition there are P99s which have the additional property of filtering out oily particles. This has no direct advantage for virus protection, but often P99 and P100 masks. These P masks have no advantage for virus protection but are often more available than N99 & N100 masks because P99 and P100 masks are more common in the building trades than the N versions. There are also R99 and R100 masks which give full protection against non-oily particles and partial protection against oily particles. These are pretty rare, but no telling what may we may be short of and what may be available in the future or what may be available at the best price. At any rate if some reason an R version is more available or more affordable to you it should also work fine. Bottom N99, N100, P99, P100, R99 and R100 masks should give you damn close to total protection against Covid and RCV and Flu if you have to go into risky situations. Downsides: more costly than N95 or similar; far less comfortable than N95s or comparable; more difficult to fit than N95s or comfortable. (Most N,P,R 99+100 makers recommend or even require training for users.) Note that neither 95 or 99 (nor presumable 100) mask provide protection at the level their names suggest, but the 99 and 100 mask provide much much better than 95s. <a hef="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2021.654317/full#:~:text=Conclusion%3A%20The%20filtration%20efficiency%20of,SARS%2DCoV%2D2%20infection&quot; title "brief" . The 90% protection 99s & 100s do provide probably reduce the viral load enough for full protection. Remember, for someone with a working immune system, even one function at somewhat less than normal, you do not need 100% protection. Reduce the viral load enough and it will be fought off. That applies to mildly and moderately immune compromised but not to severely immune compromises.

20

Gar Lipow 01.27.23 at 9:10 pm

Apparently I had old info on the last point. When Covid first came out I read it probably took millions of particles to infect. But apparently it is probably only in the 100s. So even an N99 or N10 not absolute protection. But the better masks certainly give you better odds. And haveing the minimum infectious dose does not automatically mean you will get the disease. You still have a chance of fighting it off before it actually does damage

21

Alex SL 01.28.23 at 1:01 pm

Sashas,

I have not checked the numbers, but I agree with the sentiment, but it is irrelevant in this context. Yes, this inequality is abhorrent, but the salient argument goes about like this:

“Hey, maybe there’s quite a lot of us, leaving hardly any space for natural areas and other species. Also, surely the resource use that is implied by so many of us all wanting to live comfortable, wealthy lives cannot be sustainable. Maybe we should all have fewer children and live more frugally?”

“You are either racist or unknowingly helping racists, because clearly the only thing you can mean when you say we should all have fewer children is that people in the global South should have fewer children, and clearly the only thing you can mean when you say we should be more frugal is that the global South should remain poor. Also, it is just not correct that overpopulation is the problem. In reality, all the resource overuse and global heating is caused by (1) twenty large companies or (2) billionaires. If we just get rid of those, global heating and the biodiversity crisis are solved!”

Either idea is obviously ludicrous. The large companies do what they do because billions of us buy their products and services, and if you shut them down people would complain, riot, and/or vote for you at somewhere south of 5% at the next election. The billionaires, same thing, plus there seems to be a misunderstanding here that if we abolish their yachts, private jets, and golf courses, somehow land clearing for agriculture and billions of people driving petrol cars, running AC, overusing groundwater, spraying pesticides everywhere, etc, will magically become more sustainable than before. Yes, they are obscenely rich, but their consumption doesn’t scale linearly with that wealth. A lot of it is simply owning shares and suchlike.

Admittedly there are some fellow travelers who make the inequality argument about how people in developed countries are wasteful compared to people in the global South. That is correct, of course, and a much more defensible approach than “twenty bad guys”. But they are generally remarkably coy about, first, to what level of material comfort they think we all need to equalise to have infinity population growth and, second, how they imagine they would then sell the idea, “sorry, you all have to live with the consumer goods and transport options that early-medieval peasants had so that twenty-five billion people is sustainable.”

22

reason 01.29.23 at 11:57 am

My only comment on overpopulation is to point to two places, Saudi Arabia and Kerala. Those two places say a lot. High population growth is not a simple function of poverty, but of failing social support and lack of opportunity for women. I agree we need to have slower as part of the answer, but that means critically we need to campaign for social democracy. Autocracy and Feudalism are misogynistic and indifferent to suffering everywhere.

23

reason 01.29.23 at 11:59 am

Sorry -… I agree we need to have slower population growth

24

Julie 01.30.23 at 5:52 am

Sashas @15, thanks for that thoughtful comment, I came back just to read it again. A useful articulation of a gentle and productive stance.

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