Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Constant Battles

Continuing with LeBlanc’s Constant Battles, I’m realizing that it’s useful, despite its thesis’ "going without saying." We’re beings which seek resources, as all do, and will plunder to get them, if that’s what it takes. There’s a pornographic appeal in reading about pre-historic atrocity, or stories from aboriginal sources about torture killings. If there’s value, though, in following LeBlanc’s grim telling of our past, it has to be that, in seeing our situation with new clarity, we can design a future that sidesteps the old horror, perpetrated with modern genius. Ka-boom!

We get out of ecological balance when we exceed our territory's carrying capacity, then we go to war so we can continue in our profligate ways. (I’d guess that the people we call conservatives have a more pressing sense of this than liberals, but lack the vocabulary to allow understanding and correction. Consequently, they’re morally content with empire, and practically confuse liberty and regimentation.)

Toward the end of Chapter Three, LeBlanc spins a scenario that resonates with Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons. He tells us that a given period’s competitors will have approximately the same technology, and that the larger population will prevail. (Bad news for the developed world, and -- from a limited point of view -- a sensible reason for the double standard over who gets to own nuclear weapons.)

He imagines two neighboring cultures. “Assume for a moment that by some miracle one of our two groups is full of farsighted ecological geniuses.” They keep their population far enough below carrying capacity, that they can survive minor changes in weather or climate.

“The second group, on the other hand is just the opposite -- it consists of ecological dimwits.” They don’t control their population, and operate right at their territory’s carrying capacity. They get a bad year, and raid the geniuses next door. Over the decades, the dimwits eliminate and replace the geniuses. It’s high school all over again, unless everybody does the right thing.

Hardin’s solution was “mutually agreed mutual coercion.” Figure out carrying capacity, and regulate reproduction. It’s a little more complicated with a global culture that converts fossil fuels into food, but avoiding catastrophe is the agenda for the rest of your lifetime, and mine.


Von said...

Wish our Governmnet would take note and jettison their ridiculous plans for increasing population to a number our fragile land, limited water supplies can't support

Tom Roark said...

One theory I've heard at our transition meetings is that the ones who understand don't have enough political capital. According to this theory, enough citizens not have to insist, but also have to build a movement that inspires other citizens, the ones who provide the stupid leaders with their capital.

I don't know how this translates to a parliamentary system, but it scares me here.