Friday, October 20, 2017


Just what is sustainability, and whatever it is, is it achievable?  We use the term in every day speech, as in sustainable growth, sustainable forestry, but what do we mean?

From one point of view, sustainable growth is an oxymoron:  Growth in a continuous economic sense is just not sustainable.  In an everyday sense, we do not see this.  We do today, exactly what we did yesterday, with every expectation of doing so tomorrow.  Change in infinitesimal, so that we are not aware of it, though we do curse it:  nothing is constant but change!

Yet, over the years, change is cumulative.  What I do today is not what my parents did when they were my age.  What I do today is not what I did when I was a youth.  Much of that of course is a reflection of my own aging process.  I no longer need to do what I did when I was younger, or I no longer have any interest in doing so.

We live in a society in which growth is inescapable.  It is the driver of everything that impacts us in our daily lives.  There are new products to engage our attention. There are new TV shows to watch.  There are new industrial and residential subdivisions covering our land.  Overall, we measure the impact of these things through what we call our Gross Domestic Product or GDP.  Year in and year out, we have been led to expect a growth in the total GDP of our society.  Without it, we are told, and led to understand that our economy will falter, and that our own livelihood will be affected.

But continuous growth in a finite system is impossible.  Our world is finite, no matter how apparent it is to many that it is not.

Professor Bartlett has made a remarkably succinct presentation of exponential growth.  If we expect any increase on a regular basis, then we are looking at exponential growth.  Exponential growth is subtle.  At 1 percent a year it is hard to see, but at 1% a year, whatever we are looking at will double in overall size in 70 years.  About one human lifetime.  At 2% it will double in 35 years, and at 3% in under 25 years, one human generation.

Our politicians at all levels are desperate to convince us that they can produce growth in the 5-6% range, and thus convince us that we should vote them into power.  Our local politicians are just so happy to endorse plans that call for the growth of their communities of 6% and more a year, for the next 25 years, without once recognizing that 6% over 25 years means a quadrupling of the size of the community.  (6% annual growth means a doubling in about 12 years.)

That's not just a quadrupling of the tax base, on which their salaries are based, but a quadrupling of the amount of garbage that will be produced, a quadrupling of the road systems needed, a quadrupling of the land needed to support the community, as well as a quadrupling of the number of citizens.

Where on earth are the resources going to come from to fuel this growth.  Because without a quadrupling of the resources, without a quadrupling of the farm produce to feed the citizens, without a quadrupling of the fuel systems, the growth cannot be sustained.

So you see, growth is not a sustainable model for the future of our society.  We have to reach a no growth situation in order be sustainable.

On Trump

I don't know when I've been more concerned about the democracy to our south.  Or whether it even makes any difference!

I don't recall a public figure with less respect for other people, nor a complete absence of respect for the truth, than the current president of the US, POTUS.  The list of people he has dissed, and of the verifiable facts he continues to deny, or provide his own "alternatives," appears inexhaustible.  He is like a chameleon, who changes his views depending on who he is taking to.  There does not appear to be any consistency in his approach to his job.

When the Washington Post publishes an article explicitly asking for his impeachment.  When the word is on the lips of Nancy Pelosi.  When it appears as though SNL has a better grip on reality, then how long can this presidency last?

I just hope that Robert Mueller can drop his bomb shells before either Trump of Kim drop their's.

On Harvey Weinberg

Mr Harvey Weinberg has been in the news this week.  As a result of accusations of sexual harassment he has been left by his wife and has been removed from a position on the board of the Oscars, and other companies with whom he is associated.

While I am appalled and shocked at his reported behaviour, I also find myself somewhat in sympathy with him.

His reported behaviour sounds extreme.  He is said to have grabbed women and attempted and forced kisses.  He has met women on invitation to his rooms near or naked.  He appears not have understood when No has been voiced.  He appears to have succeeded in forcing himself on young actresses eager for his professional approval.

Of course this is extreme, and beyond normal social behaviour.  It sounds every bit as bad as the reported behaviour of president Trump, with whom he appears to have had a friendship.  It is sexual harassment, requiring sexual favours in return, perhaps, for some preference in an acting career.

This has of course long been the rumour of the Hollywood scene.  Young starlets were often thought to be bedded by their producers or agents.  There may be some truth to that, perhaps, now confirmed by the actions of Harvey, and the belated reports of many victims.

But there is always innuendo in the dealings of men with women.  Flirting depends on getting a reaction one from and of the other.  Without flirting there would be very few healthy relationships.  Flirting may even be the first or early steps in courting.  If the reactions are reciprocated, and deemed mutual, then indeed things may progress, fairly and legitimately.  Most of us when rebuffed, concede, and move one.  Once however flirting is pushed repeatedly and without reciprocation it becomes harassment.

My sympathy stems from an understanding of basic male and female biology.  We both have the same fundamental biological drives: We need to reproduce.  Our hormones constantly drive us in this direction.  We choose to manage that drive of course in the interests of a stable society.  Because of the imbalance in our reproductive roles – males have a very brief involvement in fertilisation, but females bear the long gestation, we have adopted societal standards that tend to dictate monogamy.  Not evidently always with great success.

Males are hunters; females are hunted.  And whether married or not, the urge in men continues throughout life to find other partners.  Its not necessarily conscious.  Nor is it in women either.  But its there, it does after all take two to tango.  How else explain that many extramarital affairs occur.  How else explain much of what we see in contemporary culture, western at least, where freedom is worshipped, including the freedom to flaunt one’s talents, both female and male.

Perhaps also my sympathy stems from similar misdemeanours of my own.  Sexual harassment is not only the fault of those high and mighty.  It affects all of us, and many of us are guilty.  I am, and eternally grateful to those women who I attempted to force myself on that they had the guts to say no.  Harassment is like bullying: It can never be tolerated.

None of this condones what Harvey Weinstein has done.  Nor the actions of others similarly caught doing what many of us dream of – what are pinups after all but dreams, but manage to control ourselves within the norms of society.

In some circles, male exclusively, it has been said that, “No means maybe, and maybe means yes.”  But our respect for women requires us to recognise that No is always No.  If we learn anything from Harvey, it must be that we need to honour their wishes.