Thursday, September 18, 2008

population consumption and equity

Paul Ehrlich and other population experts debate the consequences of a crowded world, and how a McCain administration could set back decades of progress.

Its good that in the beginning they all agreed that the problem is consumption not population and in particular the type of consumption. Connell solution of living in larger households was mentioned by the Archbishop of Cantebury. And they all agree on the need for women's education.

The most interesting aspect of the discussion, is this kernel of equity, that floats through the discussion and is not really fleshed out. That challenge is before the world community today- that a workable climate treaty must bridge the gap between the affluent and the aspiring. Erlich hits on equity on page 2 of the salon article, but from a charitable standpoint- the generous american "We need to see that all the people have enough to eat and have decent shelter, water and medical care."

The third world is far more aware that the imperial consumption of the west brings resource supplying dictators and storms and droughts into their part of world and creates poverty by displacing sustainable systems for resource annexation. Charity is not what they need with the coddled Musharraf's of the world; they need an equal share of the resource basins, like air, which sustain life. If the cost of polluting (i.e. development) the biosphere (i.e the sum total of resource basins) were equitable, then we have a solution to Erlich's followup posit: A much tougher problem is what to do about everybody wanting to consume like Americans, and have an SUV.

The rest of what they say on education etc is just more details, but without bridging the gap, its not going to work, because some will make money of poisoning someone else's food or water or air basin and in the process offer the wrong model of development for the survival of the species.

Erlich comes across as a rabid right wing social engineer and Connell as a leftist pro human rights social engineer. Without equity you have an imbalance that requires engineers! And its also where these guys go overboard- instead of preserving the natural wealth (benefits of wild lands) in the resource basins of subsistence societies with an ownership model, like ILO 169, they see poverty and want their development model imposed on it. Though to their credit they don't quite say that- I'm reading it in between the words wealthiest and subsistence- when they agree to "take the wealthiest lawyers and bankers and send them to subsistence societies."

Erlich's defense of the Population Bomb was very forceful- applied to the US. Don't preach, practice. A home grown solution to a domestic problem. It put Connell on the defensive- and arm chair quaterback who though that the study was his end all. At which point the discussion actually turned into a debate.

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