1. what's the problem?
there's a problem?
Yes, quite a big one. Ecology is degrading rapidly. We're in a mass exctinction event - extinctions are happening at over 1,000 times the natural rate.
who says so, and are they reliable?
Edward O Wilson, the world's most respected biologist, has said that we're on course to lose around half of all species of plants and animals in the next 100 years. The World Resources Institute, the Zoological Society of London, the Convention on Biological Diversity are saying similar things. There is consensus amongst the world's top ecologists. We live in a world of specialist disciplines, so it's impossible to test everything for ourselves. We have to decide who to trust. Unless they have vested interests, or are being paid to say it, we have to trust respected, independent specialists.
have there been mass extinctions before?
Yes. 5 times. The biggest was 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian, when around 95% of species became extinct. Then 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous, around 50% of all species became extinct, including the dinosaurs. We are now in the sixth mass extinction event.
what caused the past extinctions?
The most likely cause of the end of Permian event was unusually large-scale volcanic activity in what is now Siberia, pumping billions of tonnes of debris, dust and gases into the atmosphere, changing the climate drastically in a relatively short period. At the end of Cretaceous, there was an asteroid impact causing a global fireball, tsunami, earthquakes and again, climate disruption.
what's causing the current one?
There are no such cataclysms now - this time it's human activity. A massively growing human population and economy has meant direct removal of vast amounts of natural habitat for resources, for urban infrastructure, housing, roads, airports, agriculture and leisure, plus overhunting and overfishing; toxification of the environment; increased carbon and pollution emissions; soil erosion; disease; and introduction of invasive species.
and what are the consequences for us?
Ecology is a web of connections, and so if we do lose 50% of all species in the next 100 years, it won't stop there, it will snowball (ecologists call this the 'cascade effect') - to what? 80%? 99%? Ecological damage is increasing, as is human population. An ecological crash will be much more dangerous than an economic crash. An unhealthy ecology means unhealthy humans, and an extremely damaged ecology may not be able to support us any more. Like a game of Jenga, take one species too many out of ecology, and it will collapse. It's happened locally before, but this time the risk is global. It's much too serious a risk to ignore.
so what if we become extinct?
Good question. Maybe you think we deserve it, or that the universe doesn't need us. Maybe there's no point to existence, and it really doesn't matter if humans become extinct. But we don't know - and if we drop out of evolution, our descendants never will, because they'll never get the chance.
2. what's the root of the problem?
why don't we just stop damaging ecology?
Because we'd have to change our economy. The global economy is primed to grow, because of interest on debt, investors wanting more out of the casino than they put in, fractional reserve banking, and advertising constantly persuading us to consume more. Growth means more of the thing that's damaging ecology - human activity. A cancer grows until it damages and ultimately kills its host, and that's an appropriate metaphor for the global economy as it's organised today - a cancer.
what's fractional reserve banking?
Banks are allowed to loan out many times more money than they actually have, by creating money out of thin air, as debt. See here for a basic explanation.
but don't we need growth, for all sorts of reasons?
Well, poor countries do; but as an economy grows past a certain per capita size, benefits stop increasing, then start to fall - due to stress, congestion, crime, pollution, noise, ugliness, unsatisfying work and lack of community. But it’s the ecological damage that growth causes that presents the greatest threat to humans. And trying to achieve perpetual growth is as absurd as trying to achieve perpetual motion.
See here for some economic growth myths.
why don't we stabilise the economy then?
Because to stablilise it, we'd have to change it completely, and because some people have made absurd amounts of money from the current system, they don't want it to change. Absurd amounts of money bring absurd amounts of power, via the lobby industry, media ownership, political donations and corporate encroachment into the political system, and so change will be very difficult.
how did we get to this point?
Click here for the story of money, and how it built an empire - a very interesting story.
3. what can we do?
what can I do as an individual?
Lots. The main thing is to recognise corporate spin, and not give them your money. So, don't believe the hype, downshift, support local small businesses, share things, learn skills, do things for yourself and sell your products and services locally. See here for lots of things you can do, starting right now.
that's not enough though, is it?
No. We need land reform as well. Too much land is in the hands of too few people, and now there's a corporate land grab going on in developing countries too. We can't provide for ourselves, build local economies, have real security or protect the environment if we don't have the land. We don't want to cover the countryside with suburbia, but we believe that we should have a right to build a home as long as it's super-eco and we commit to living in harmony with nature, and more importantly, commit to producing food.
Smallholdings produce more food per acre than large farms; Lammas have created a planning precedent with their eco-village in Wales; we'd like to do something similar in Buckinghamshire.
don't we need a political solution as well?
Yes. Land reform and living in harmony with nature are essential but not enough. We need to build a political system that is truly democratic, so that we can change direction.
can't we just make corporations better?
You mean 'corporate social responsibility?' No, that can't work. Corporations only exist (in fact are legally bound) to maximise returns for investors, which promotes growth and damages ecology and democracy. Anything they do is to make more money. Their 'good works' are to get more customers, not to do good. If it doesn't get more customers, it doesn't happen, no matter how good it is. And more customers for the corporate sector pushes us faster down the wrong road.
are you suggesting revolution?
No. Revolution means military men taking power - but then they don't give it up. Revolution means swapping one undemocratic system for another.
is this a left-wing or a right-wing message?
Neither. Both left and right have been fooled into thinking that we need perpetual economic growth. The corporate world is making fools of all of us, as left and right continue to fight each other, rather than uniting to oppose the corporate system.
why can't we just vote for change?
We can vote but it won't change anything because government isn't where the real power is - real power is corporate and we don't get to vote for it.
isn't trying to change the current system just a hopeless dream?
Is that what you would have said to anti-slavery campaigners, or women fighting for the vote, or Rosa Parks? Things change; and this time it's crucial for all of us that they do.
4. how do we change the system?
By starting to talk about ideas for a new system. Banks and corporations, and the people within them are not evil, they're just responding to a system that forces the economy to either grow or fall into recession; and forces people, organisations and countries to compete with each other for profits and rescources or to be unemployed, bankrupt or defeated in war. We have to unite, and come up with a better system than this. We have some ideas, and we'd like to hear yours.