My general outlook on “overconsumption” of resources


Dagny Taggart: I keep thinking of what they told us in school about the sun losing energy, growing colder each year. I remember wondering, then, what it would be like in the last days of the world. I think it would be … like this. Growing colder and things stopping. Hank Rearden: I never believed that story. I thought by the time the sun was exhausted, men would find a substitute.

Ohhhhhh maaaan you are sooooo wrong on that. Or I can’t flat out say you’re wrong, but that is completely ill-considered. I totally believe in technological process, I believe in human ingenuity. I believe that if it came down to it, humans would be able preserve its species. If the world as we know it is largely destroyed and many vital species go extinct and huge swaths of our population dies, we would have to give up what we’re used to but would probably be able to survive with many artificial supports. That much I believe in technology. But no, we do not ever want to get even close to that happening. An idea that I didn’t really grasp until last year (in a freshman year sustainability class) is that all “sustainability” and “environmental” and “reducing consumption” stuff comes down to one thing: slow the fuck down the rate of change of EVERYTHING. This probably doesn’t sound enticing to your “free-market” ideologies but fuck dat economic crap. It’s not just about ensuring the world is livable for future generations. It’s not to protect nature because it’s our “home” and it’s beautiful and everything. And it’s certainly not to “save the dolphins” or “save the koalas”. Fuck that shit, they’re not even that important. We don’t need to argue whether species should be going extinct *anyway* because that’s what nature intended. We don’t need to argue whether climate change is created by human industry or not. It doesn’t matter a shit what your views are on that. What’s perilous is the rapid change itself, and what we need is to slow everything down. There are all kinds of macro changes that are happening too fast right now. And you are very wrong if you think the problem with overconsumption is that resources will be gone and then we won’t have any more. Or even that the consumption produces hazards to the environment or our health. Humans’ rate of changing the planet has grown stupendously massively since the 1800’s. I believe the figure is that the amount we’ve changed the planet in the past 100 years has surpassed all change that has happened to the planet in the previous few hundred thousand years. The thing is all life, including us, adapt to change. Yet life does NOT adapt quickly. We know cutting down rainforests destroys habitat and causes species extinction. But put that in a different way: we’re changing conditions faaaaaaar more quickly than those species can adapt to, and it’s clearly unfair because our extraordinary human powers allow us to change things far more quickly than nature ever could. That’s just on a very local scale. On the macro scale, our climate change is unprecedented and happening very quickly on a geological time scale. That’s very bad, because it affects a shit ton of things and that affects a shit ton more things. By accelerating the rate of change of everything, we are not only threatening all non-human species but also putting ourselves on a road to nowhere in a car with no headlights and an accelerator that might get stuck (um how did I think of that metaphor). When species can’t adapt quickly enough, they die. We as humans might not realize it first-hand. But we are dependent on all the ecological systems around us. We can defend our survival with technology, but our technology will not keep up. Think about how GMO advancement has slowed down after years of increasing crop yields. Think how difficult it is for us to contain new flus. The more rapidly our environmental factors are changing, the more we are exposing ourselves to the risk of things happening that we don’t anticipate. Consumption is what drives our need to alter the Earth. Population, of course, is the other massive issue; the more people there are the more we need to collectively consume. But we are already trying our hardest to reign that in, and yet even if we could cut global population growth to 0 right this second, we would still have far more population than the Earth can support. That’s saying nothing to the nasty quandary of developing nations moving up to Western levels of consumption. Long story short, slowing things down makes it more suitable for us and other species to adapt, reducing the risk of shit happening. To slow things down, we mostly need to reduce our consumption. Other sustainability-minded people feel free to examine this, because I don’t think this was ever directly taught, just something I concluded.

Everything leads to everything else.