Back on January 4th and 5th, I posted on a (well) managed planet. John Plodinec provided a thoughtful comment; worth reading! At that time I encouraged him to submit a fuller post. To my great joy, he’s obliged. Blogs should be colloquies, not just soliloquys…
John is the first person to take me up on my standing invitation to submit, not just as a commenter, but as a guest contributor. As for the rest of you…please consider following his lead! Share what’s on your mind.
Want to get to know John a bit better? You can find a bit of biographical material here. Now follows his thoughtful (and welcome) contribution, verbatim. Thank you, John!
I Cherish the Earth – The [Un]Movement
In a recent comment, I said that “I could get a lot more enthusiastic about a cherished planet – but that would be yet another post.” Bill suggested (challenged me?) that I write a post about this. So what might my “Cherish the Earth” [Un]Movement look like?
Let me start with a quote from Carl Sagan:
“Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.”
Note that Sagan explicitly recognizes that we human beings are part of the Earth we should cherish. He implicitly rejects the notion that the Earth is this “Great Other” that is separate from and befouled by humans. In other words, he is enjoining us to understand and protect both Man and Nature. It’s not “either-or,” it’s both, or, really, one: an optimal balance between human and natural progress. Let me use this as a good description of the [Un]Movement’s objective.
But right away, this puts us between a rock and a hard place: Both Man and Unman are in such varying conditions across our world. If we use measures such as the Human Development Index (one of my favorites) to look at human progress, we see the least developed – in terms of the HDI – countries are also the ones bedeviled by poverty, overpopulation, and – at least in their urban areas – deep damage to the environment. In general, the most developed countries have low rates of population growth (except for the US, the population of almost every other developed country is actually shrinking), low levels of poverty, and are actively working to improve the health of their corner of the planet.
The most interesting cases, though, are developing countries like India and China, transitioning from poverty. In general, we see a slowdown in population growth, but wild excesses in the generation of pollution, followed by efforts to reduce their impact as the nation becomes richer.
And this is why I see “Cherish the Earth” as an [Un]Movement: our forms of affection must vary to match our states of development. In the developed countries, the balance between development of Man and Unman is farther toward redevelopment of Unman, and rightly so. We have the discretionary resources to go beyond simply meeting human needs to also ensure the health of the rest of our planet. For us, this should be our way to cherish the earth.
However, in the poorer countries, the balance – again I believe rightly so – must be tilted more toward human development. If these countries can develop more flourishing economies, human history strongly suggests that population growth will slow and perhaps even stop. Eventually, they too will have the discretionary resources to prevent or heal any damage done to the their corners of the earth.
Thus, the [Un]Movement: each of us addressing our own greatest needs with whatever resources we can muster. The one common factor we all should strive for, though, is this necessary balance, this optimum development of Man and Unman. It’s not “either-or,” but truly only one.