Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Dave Pollard's environmental philosophy, creative works, business papers and essays.

Five years ago, at the age of 48, I decided it was time to stop complaining and being depressed about the state of the world, and start doing something about it. I began to read voraciously, an average of two books a week, and gradually put together a picture in my own mind of the current state of the world, how we got here, and what we needed to do about it. In February of last year I started a weblog, in part because I wanted to share what I had learned, and in part to discuss it with others and find out if they felt the same way that I did. At that time I wrote an essay that described my learning journey to that point. Since then, I have read a great deal more, and engaged a lot of very bright and perceptive people in discussion of these issues. I intended to update the essay, but I have come to realize that the sequential story of discovering the unprecedented crisis this world is in today is essentially what the 'environmental philosophy' category of my weblog tells already. What is needed now instead is a recapitulation, much shorter and not necessarily in the order in which I learned it, of what I have learned and what I believe we need to do to stave off ecological catastrophe. That is what this essay is about.
It is my way of 'signing on' to the 1992 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity signed by 1600 senior scientists from 71 countries, which stated:
"Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished. A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated."
At the root of my environmental philosophy is a growing belief that just having everyone 'do their best' to make the world a better place will not be enough. In other words, we need to bring about a dramatic change in our world in this century, a much greater and faster change than any culture can achieve organically. A change this drastic and this sudden has occurred four times before in human history:

* about 30,000 years ago, with the invention of the axe, the flint arrowhead and the spear
* about 10,000 years ago, with the invention of catastrophic agriculture and animal domestication
* during the Renaissance, with the invention of modern science
* during the industrial revolution, with the invention of automation
Each of these revolutionary inventions utterly changed the way humans lived. None of them, I think importantly, came about because of political or social actions or revolutions -- they were all (in the broad sense of the term) technology-based. What we need urgently today is another such revolution, every bit as radical as these four. We need to find, and rapidly implement, a better, sustainable way to live....