Feedback to USSEE board on 2013 conference in VT

The quality of the conference, and the quality of the presenters was excellent. However, while the presentations correctly described many different activities that are degrading human existence and tactics to alter each, their integration into an overarching view of reality appeared absent. (it was impossible to attend every session, so my view is not perfect.)

I hoped participants would have come away from the meeting with two conclusions:
        1) we are underestimating the human predicament
        2) we are overestimating our ability to muddle through.

I assumed each participant would then be motivated to help their students, colleagues, and the public understand this larger view and be motivated to fix it.

I assumed incorrectly. The absence of terror, about systemic collapse, resulted in different conclusions. My sampling showed that participants were still focused on improvements at the margins of human operations. For example,
        lowering of individual consumption,
        reducing inequity,
        increasing of technological efficiency,
        reducing process toxicity, and
        reducing systemic distortions embedded in political and financial institutions.

Most participant conclusions did not reflect that,
        fossil fuel supports might exhaust this century.
        Without a replacement energy source coming on line
                (something most technical people see as improbable)
the viable human community on earth might number less than 2 billion. Some say less then 100 million.

No matter which estimate is correct, I heard little at this conference about the need-for, and planning-of, this downsizing.

If ecological economics is the process by which we provide a view of reality, this conference was a pretty good example of a group of tactile scientists in a dark room, each holding a different appendage of an elephant and providing accurate and well reasoned descriptions of that appendage. Lacking a framework on which to hang these accurate descriptions, there was no way they could infer that an elephant existed or that it could trample them.

Conference, scientists did not infer "overpopulation" was the dominant force expanding the problems they described. And the dominant variable in addressing them.

This century, a major contraction in human population will happen. Billions will starve and be killed in conflict. The only question that remains is will this contraction be guided by nature or human sapience. I would like to think that ecological economics is contributing to the sapient path.


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to:     (homepage)      position papers

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