Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Memo to Osborne, Merkel, Cyprus and the World

with 26 comments

Dear George Osborne, Chancellor Merkel, EU Commission, Citizens of Cyprus, and people everywhere,

I would like to hereby remind you of what Richard Heinberg said in his book The End of Growth.  Here is a quick audio-visual summary:

Please accept my condolences for your loss(es) and my sincerest wish that you will now stop lying to yourselves; and face-up to the nature of reality.


Martin Lack.

Further to the comment by Lionel Smith (below), this is what page 159 of Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell looks like:
universe in nutshell p159
This is the problem that we have with exponential growth.

26 Responses

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  1. and the reality of nature.


    20 March 2013 at 19:03

    • Yes indeed, Mike. I typed the very same words and deleted them.

      Martin Lack

      20 March 2013 at 19:23

  2. Hmmm… Nice (counter) propaganda piece, WSJ, TE level…. It’s conflating several issues. Philosophically, growth cannot be stopped, it better not stop, it just has to be oriented in new dimensions. It’s important to grow sustainable energy industries while we can, for example.
    We have to play offense. The Romans, with a similar situation, played defense, and it did not work.

    Patrice Ayme

    21 March 2013 at 04:22

    • I get what you’re saying however reorienting growth or redirecting it or whatever is just a delay tactic because like it or not, we live in a finite world. Infinite growth does not work in a finite world. Even renewable energy capture and use is finite in that while the free part be it radiation or kinetic energy from wind or waves appears infinite, the materials that go into capturing and using the energy are finite. That’s not to say we shouldn’t switch to renewables..we absolutley should. We should do everything we can to avoid a climate catastrophe but on a purely physical constraints basis, growth is finite. Until someone invents a bejeesus machine that can produce something from nothing that will always be the case. The universe itself is finite so even on a philosophical level growth is finite.


      21 March 2013 at 04:48

      • With the right technology, growth is practically infinite. That is what the Romans failed to perceive, when they were subjected to plutocracy. Or maybe they did, but their plutocratic masters would not let them speak.

        The local, manipulable universe is finite, agreed. I used that argument to claim there was a largest number.
        However the universe itself could well be infinite. Does it matter? Yes because of Quantum entanglements leading to observable consequences.

        Patrice Ayme

        21 March 2013 at 05:11

        • Sorry for the delayed response, Patrice (I turned the laptop off for the evening). Although others have since replied, I will now echo theirs by making my own:

          Quantitative economic or population growth cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely because mineral resources (including water) are not infinite (philosophically or practically). Even sustainable energy industries consume finite resources (although I agree that using them to manufacture technology that can harness renewable energy is a very wise investment).

          Therefore, rather than planning to hoover rare earth metals off the seabed or mine them on asteroids, we should be focusing our attention on minimising per-capita consumption and maximising per-capita recycling. However, even so, we are just playing for time: In the end, unless climate change wipes out most life on Earth, we will have to do very expensive things like extract uranium and salt from seawater (to produce electricity and drinking water respectively), but we clearly cannot afford to do such things now (on a scale sufficient to obviate the need to burn fossil fuels).

          You sound like you are dangerously close to embracing Prometheanism – the belief that technology alone can make the ecological carrying capacity of planet Earth disappear. The only way to escape ecologiclal limits will be for us to escape the planet – and colonise Space itself but – dreaming of this is an abdication of responsibility for the fact that we are trashing the planet.

          Martin Lack

          21 March 2013 at 10:17

    • Patrice, WRT growth had better not be stopped, find a copy of Stephen Hawking’s book, ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’, turn to page 159 and study the illustration on that page. Now what do you think?

      PS I have just had to use the pit-prop method for extracting my copy from the bottom of a pile from floor to ceiling, after gingerly sliding adjacent piles out of the way, whilst decorators are in and much of my library is dismantled. I tell you this as I have gone to much effort to provide precise details. I trust that you will do likewise.

      Lionel A

      21 March 2013 at 17:38

      • Thanks Lionel. To help general understanding of your remarks, I have inserted a screenshot of page 159 of Hawking’s book at the end of my post (above).

        Martin Lack

        21 March 2013 at 18:58

  3. I assume, from the statement by Mr. Ayme, that he knows and understands the “right” technology but I would be grateful if he would explain for the dimmer bulbs what exactly “practically” infinite means. Either we have infinity or finity there is no other choice.Also what does he understand with the usage of terms such as the “manipulable”. With a finite world there cannot be infinite growth however slow and minute the increments might be.


    21 March 2013 at 07:41

    • Thanks for the moral support, Duncan. I hope you have seen my response to PA.

      Martin Lack

      21 March 2013 at 17:16

    • Duncan: I am advocating fundamental (i.e. government subsidized) research, not my know-it-all mind. For example the best photovoltaics have only .02% efficiency at night. If that could be made as good as in visible light, the effect would be major.

      Talking about infinite growth when we, practically, don’t even have enough energy to settle Mars, let alone this galactic arm, is silly. It’s like worrying about eternal life, when one is a firefly.

      Patrice Ayme

      22 March 2013 at 02:53

  4. PA totally unphased here. I don’t subscribe to the Hawkins’ cult (I dealt with him professionally). Yet, of course, I am always extremely interested with what he has to say: he is clearly never afraid to be wrong, and that’s good. (I did not see the Hawkings thing, and as the idea was not described, I am in the unfortunate position of having to stay silent).

    I find amusing that some are accusing Prometheus of being somehow culprit of an “ism”. Is Martin joining the Greek gods in the torture?

    Humanity is all about technology, and has been, for longer than Habilis used man made tools and weapons and Ergaster put clothes on (2 million years ago). Yet, I understand that, under Osborne’s leadership one may want to return screaming, naked, into whatever is left of the woods…

    As I said, I demonstrated there is a greatest number. Yet, to say we will practically reach it, as some of the participants are implying here makes me smile… [I don’t think anyone here is saying or thinking that – ML]

    Patrice Ayme

    21 March 2013 at 22:12

    • As I explain in my book, Patrice, those who deny that climate change is dangerous suffer from two main delusions: Cornucopianism (i.e. that catastrophe will be averted by Nature’s bounty) and Prometheanism (i.e. that catastrophe will be averted by human ingenuity). These delusions are not my ideas; they are facets of the perilous predicament of humanity.

      Martin Lack

      21 March 2013 at 22:19

      • Sounds good on the cornucopia. Yet to believe that something else than ingenuity will save us, leaves me baffled.

        in·ge·nu·i·ty/ˌɪndʒəˈnuɪti, -ˈnyu-/
        noun, plural in·ge·nu·i·ties.

        1. the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful; inventiveness: a designer of great ingenuity.
        2. cleverness or skillfulness of conception or design: a device of great ingenuity.
        3. an ingenious contrivance or device.
        4. Obsolete , ingenuousness.

        The first ingenious device to be applied is a massive carbon tax, or equivalent, accompanied with social aid for those of little means to compensate.

        Luddites destroyed Papin’s steam boat, the first efficacious steam engine, ever. Would we have been better off without?

        Patrice Ayme

        22 March 2013 at 02:46

        • Thanks Patrice. I may have over-simplified. Prometheanism is essentially the delusion that technology will save us without any significant change in behaviour. People need to accept that the future will be much different from the past and, having accepted that, start working to make the transition as painless as possible. Ingenuity is not enough; behaviour modification is now essential!

          Martin Lack

          22 March 2013 at 09:03

    • Patrice,

      You wrote in a post above:

      I don’t subscribe to the Hawkins’ cult…


      Note that citing an apposite illustration from ONE of Hawking’s books is not indicative of cult-following. Indeed, although I do have some other titles by Hawking his books form a very small percentage of the reading matter in my library, even on the subjects closest to Hawking’s main theme.

      I did not consider that describing any idea was necessary as the illustration with accompanying caption is self explanatory. To be sure that particular end result is impossible for a number of practical reasons, reasons obvious to any with the slightest intelligence. I hasten to add that I do not consider your intelligence as being slight.

      I thought the image, though rather silly in outcome, made an important point and indicated the foolishness of attempting to forever increase GDP, which would require a concomitant ramp up in electrical power consumption. One nation’s increase in GDP is often another nation’s deficit either financial (which also works on an individual or even corporate basis within a nation) or through resource depletion. There is also likely to be environmental and ecological damage foisted on those so exploited.

      Lionel A

      23 March 2013 at 12:28

      • I think the easiest way to explain the consequences of unfettered exponential growth is simply by looking at what happens if population continues to grow at 1.3% per year. Within 700 years, there will be 1 person per square metre of the Earth’s land surface. Within 3000 years, the weight of people will equal the weight of the Earth. Of course both of these situations is impossible and at some point we will have negative population growth and a subsequent negative demand for …… stuff. The big question is, at what point do we achieve some sort of equillibrium without damaging the environment so badly that we cannot recover? People tout 9 billion by 2050 but I think that’s too many and it will greatly reduce the overall carrying capacity of the planet such that the inevitable population crash will reduce numbers to a level far below what might be sustainable should population growth stop today.


        23 March 2013 at 21:13

  5. I’ve just watched Who killed economic growth and read the information in this blog. It backs up videos and articles I’ve watched elsewhere concerning the unsustainable nature of economic growth as it is now. Scientists can keep sounding the alarm (even if governments are trying to shut them up by cancelling their contracts, eliminating their research etc. – a current problem in Canada, e.g. the shutting down of lake research).

    I’ve asked, what can people like me, neither a scientist nor a politician and without funds to support the good causes do? I write the following, not as boasting – it’s so little after all, but as a way of encouraging people like me. I sign petitions, keep educated and personally try to lessen my impact on the planet. We’ve converted to geothermal from oil heating, grow our own veggies without chemicals and have created a wildlife area for birds and small mammals by planting native berry plants etc.

    I don’t have the knowledge to write scientific articles about the environment, I’m a writer and ex-mariner. But I included an environmental theme in the novel Deception Island. I fear Antarctica is not completely safe from exploitation. Japanese whalers still troll the southern seas for whalemeat (they call it reserarch but everyone knows it isn’t) and there are likely valuable minerals and oil deposits which will be easier to reach once the ice melts. Sadly this is already a concern in the Arctic.

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for what you’re doing and wish you all the best.

    Janice & Brian Kenefick

    22 March 2013 at 13:18

    • Dear Janice (and Brian), thanks for subscribing to my blog and for the comment. I was trying to find out about your book earlier when my Computer froze on me. If you live in Canada, please accept my condolences on your loss (of a rational government) and your return to a developing world economy (exporting all your resources and manufacturing very little other than global warming). Meanwhile, here in the UK, our government continues to announce large-scale power generation and distribution projects while simultaneously doing a lot less than they could to encourage micro-generation schemes and installations that would solve the problem. Such is the madness of the World in which we live. Presumably, you have already looked at my posts about Antarctica…?

      Martin Lack

      22 March 2013 at 15:35

  6. Martin: We do agree 100% that behavior modification is of the essence. But being pious is not enough. I add that tax is its prophet: tax carbon heavily, let free market to do the rest.
    Also I think all geo-engineering so far proposed is grotesque. It’s akin to saying, let’s put radioactivity all around the planet, we will clean it later.
    Indeed HALF LIFE OF CO2 IS WAY GREATER than that of most of the radioactive elements so many pseudo-ecologists whine about when they condemn nuclear energy.
    We will get out of this mess with acccurate, correct thinking. And accurate, correct thinking only.

    Patrice Ayme

    22 March 2013 at 16:26

    • Thanks Patrice. I am glad we are agreed. This discussion has inspired its own post (to be published in six hours time).

      Martin Lack

      22 March 2013 at 18:10

      • Fact is plutocracy is the ultimate headS of the hydra. Climate gets crushed below. with the intermediacy of a lots of erroneous thinking, and emoting. So watch Cyprus and read my site!

        Patrice Ayme

        22 March 2013 at 18:33

      • Gladness shared, BTW…

        Patrice Ayme

        22 March 2013 at 18:41

  7. […] by an exchange of comments I have been having with Patrice Ayme – on my previous post (i.e. here) – that I feel deserves wider exposure and/or appreciation. However, if you have not the […]

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