Beyond our Means

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 24, 2006

Reuters reports today that humans are living beyond our means.

Issues like this are just too big to get one's head around. People encountering statements like, "Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends," generally react in one of two ways: passive whateverism or kneejerk denial. The threat is so colossal that it becomes easy to assume it's hyperbolic and exaggerated.

Assuming they make it halfway through the article, people encounter sentences like this: "Everyone would have to change lifestyles - cutting use of fossil fuels and improving management of everything from farming to fisheries." At this point, the issue becomes academic and easily dismissed.

Without political leadership from somewhere, it's simply not possible for individuals to make enough personal changes to transform the aggregate structure of energy and materials consumption, which is mainly a function of land use and goods production.

The Bush Administration has taught us that huge outrages are easier to ride our than small ones, and no outrage is huger than the accelerating obliteration of the biological foundation on which complex organisms live.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2006 at 17:34:15

Hi Ryan,

I disagree that it's not possible to 'transform the aggregate structure' as an individual.

As individuals we need to make the 'small' lifestyle changes and constantly seek to educate ourselves and question the wisdom of those in power. People drive change - always.

I recall something the old Leeds United Manager, Howard Wilkinson, said when Leeds went 3-0 down in the first leg of a UEFA tie: "We're not out of it yet - Where there's life there's hope"! Leeds went on to win the tie after it came out that the opposition had mistakenly fielded too many foreign players.

Don't give up!


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