Sustainable – our favourite buzzword these days may be in disrepute.  Well, as it applies to the natural world, anyway.

Growing wheat organically may seem like a sustainable and noble activity but if the farmer turns his/her back for a few weeks, weeds and bugs and all sorts of natural invaders will try to take the field back.  The way of nature is to resist monoculture regardless of how green it is.  In fact, the way of nature is to resist almost all our ‘modified foodstuffs’.  An orchard will wither and die and another orchard will not grow up in its place.  Wilderness will prevail in the long run.  The natural world wants to sustain only wilderness.

Most of our so-called natural foodstuffs aren’t natural at all.  We have domesticated them and adapted them to grow where they would never have grown before.  We change the natural way of things in almost every thing we do.

So, how is that sustainable?

The only humans who were ever in total sync with the environment were hunter gatherers.  The primal guys.  They exploited what was there and, when it was there no longer, they moved on and let their impact areas heal naturally.  Then they would exploit another ‘garden’ and do the same until the first one was healed enough to receive another assault.  And they remained small in number, stature and limited in their impact on the planet.

Now that’s sustainable.  Smart-phone living?  Not so much.

“Dave, don’t be ridiculous  We are not going to go back to hunting and gathering.  And, anyway, farming is sustainable.  We’ve been doing it for thousands of years!”        

Well, firstly I am not saying that we should go back to primal living.  We’d all die trying to do that.  Healthy young people die all the time just hiking in the forest or skiing out of bounds.  Hell, most old people would die without their TV or their car.  Individually, we are not all that tough.  So my best advice is to NOT go primal.  We wouldn’t last long enough to get good at it.

My point is that no ‘human modified’ way of food production will ultimately be sustainable….at least not on an industrial scale and that is what is required if we are to remain a population of billions.

In the long, long, long run, we – as a species – may not be sustainable.  Not in any kind of numbers, anyway.

Just a thought…

10 thoughts on “Sustainable?

  1. There have been five recorded mass-extinctions, which has killed off more than 99% of all species of all types of life ever to have set foot (or whatever it had) on Earth. From most recent to oldest,

    (1) Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, 65 million years ago (the “dinosaur killer”)

    (2) End Triassic extinction, roughly 199 – 214 Ma

    (3) Permian-Triassic extinction, about 251 Ma (the “Great Dying”)

    (4) Late Devonian extinction, about 364 Ma

    (5) Ordovician-Silurian extinction, about 439 Ma

    Will mankind be the cause of the next extinction? Doubtful.

    Will mankind be the cause of the net extinction


  2. “Will mankind be the cause of the next extinction? Doubtful…”
    I think it will. I don’t think there is any doubt whatsoever. I don’t think we are sustainable. Maybe as Tarzan-like but certainly not at the present rate of consumption. I think we’ll eventually starve/disease out. Admittedly, that is many generations hence but the trend lines are pretty clear. To me, anyway. But, keep a happy thought – I have been wrong before.


    • The Hollow men

      This is the way the world ends
      This is the way the world ends
      This is the way the world ends
      Not with a bang but a whimper.”


      • Or not. Maybe we just reduce our numbers over time and get in sync. I dunno. It was just a thought. A thought based on a view that what we are doing is unsustainable in the long run.


  3. “If greed were not the master of modern man–ably assisted by envy–how could it be that the frenzy of economism does not abate as higher “standards of living” are attained, and that it is precisely the richest societies which pursue their economic advantage with the greatest ruthlessness?” Quoted from Small is beautiful by Schumacher. It is a truth that no one holding any elected office dare speak.


    • I agree 100% – well, except that envy is second to fear, I think. These people (those with too much) fear ‘not having enough’. They think from scarcity rather than plenty. Greed and fear are like two peas in the same poison pod. Three peas if you add envy.

      The reality is that we are eventually going to outstrip the planet’s ability to heal and our numbers will suffer while we ‘degrade’ into 3rd world standards (which will be the new 1st world in the then resource-depleted world). But that won’t happen for a long time. And there is not much even a whole country can do about it now that greed has become an international plague. It may just have to ‘play itself out’.

      One thing is for sure – living minimally, off-the-grid and ‘doing the right thing’ is not a cure. The sickness has taken the patient and there is simply no cure – only palliative care. But off the grid is as good a palliative care as there is.


  4. Interesting topic.
    Humanity’s downfall.
    I recall reading a CIA (yes THAT CIA) published report on society in the next 50-100 years.
    It makes for chilling reading.
    Here’s the Readers Digest condensced version.
    Nation states failing due to climate change induced famine.
    Millions of famine/ civil war refugees fleeing the crisis streaming across borders causing neighboring states to fail.
    Other nation states attempting to intervene. Failing miserably due to lack of political will.
    Crop failure spreading, more war, disease, corruption running rampant, martial law to control the masses.
    Hundreds of millions die of war, starvation and disease. Economies fail causing deeper strife worldwide……… repeat.
    The authors of this report finished the study with the warning.
    If you want to see what the world will be like in 100 years….. look at Africa today.


    • The thing about this gamble is that we have 7 billion people to bet with. I suspect that even with the odd million dying off in wars and pandemics, we can play craps for a lot longer than 100 years. Having said that, it is a fantasy that we are playing at. We can’t do this lifestyle on this planet at this rate forever. It is not sustainable. At least that is what I think.


  5. Einstein was once asked what type of weapons would be used in the 3rd World War.
    His answer.
    “I dont know what weapons will be used in the 3rd World War but people will be using sticks and stones in the 4th”


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