The God Species

I am currently reading The God Species by Mark Lynas, about a third of the way through so a little early for conclusions, but so far it’s interesting and convincing enough to press on.

What hooked me early on was that rather than taking sides in the increasingly sterile debate between “Global Warming Alarmists” and “Global Warming Deniers”, and avoiding any arguments about the level of contribution made by man’s activities, he calmly points out that as the clearly dominant species on the planet, who have conquered all before us, we must attend to the first duty of all conquerors, which is to govern.

He uses the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s concept of planetary boundaries in nine areas which I won’t list, you can look if you’re interested. For each area, boundaries are set which we must manage our affairs in order to stay within.

So far so humdrum I hear you say, but what is refreshing is that he rejects both the anti-capitalist approaches which attempt to “re-create” a pre-industrial agrarian idyll with its requirement for a  commensurate managed reduction of global population to “sustainable” levels, which may be appealing as an outcome but no imaginable process to get from here to there would be likely acceptable or achievable; and the complete laissez-faire approach of full speed ahead as we are, overcoming  each problem as it occurs, as we have throughout our history (This always makes me think of the chap falling of a tall building calling out “Not dead yet” as he passes every floor, or perhaps pre-crash mortgage derivatives traders, same thing).

The approach proposed seems a compromise, but a reasoned one, that we should continue to use capitalism and science as our drivers, to eliminate poverty and disease and improve the lot of each and all, but to actively manage staying within the boundaries in each area. How this active management is to be operated and enforced, I haven’t got to yet, and there lies the rub but then freedom is an overwhelming responsibility.

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