“Why COVID-19 previews a larger crash. What we must do to save ourselves….
“However horrific the COVID-19 pandemic may seem, it is merely one symptom of gross human ecological dysfunction. The prospect of economic implosion is directly connected. The overarching reality is that the human enterprise is in a state of overshoot.
“There are no exceptions to the first law of plague dynamics: the unconstrained expansion of any species’ population invariably destroys the conditions that enabled the expansion, thus triggering collapse.
“Discussion in the mainstream focuses doggedly on defeating COVID-19, facilitating recovery, restoring growth and otherwise getting back to normal. After all, as Gregory Bateson has written, “That is the paradigm: Treat the symptom to make the world safe for the pathology.”
“Let that sink in: “Normal” is the pathology.
“But returning to “normal” guarantees a repeat performance. There will be other pandemics, potentially worse than COVID-19. (Unless, of course, some other form of negative feedback gets to us first — as noted, there is no shortage of potential candidates.)
“To save itself, society must adopt an eco-centric lens. This would enable us to see the human enterprise as a fully dependent subsystem of the ecosphere. We need to script a new cultural narrative consistent with this vision. We must reduce the human ecological footprint to eliminate overshoot.
“And herein lies the great opportunity to salvage global civilization.
“Clearing skies and cleaner waters should inspire hopeful ingenuity. Indeed, if we wish to thrive on a finite planet, we have little choice but to see the COVID-19 pandemic as preview and our response as dress rehearsal for the bigger play. Again, the challenge is to engineer a safe, smooth, controlled contraction of the human enterprise. Surely it is within our collective imagination to socially construct a system of globally networked but self-reliant national economies that better serve the needs of a smaller human family.
“The ultimate goal of economic planning everywhere must now turn to ensuring that humanity can thrive indefinitely and more equitably within the biophysical means of nature.”
Read the full story by William E. Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia….
Photo: Suicide Cliff, Kowloon Peak, Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash