Tag Archives: environment


I go out less these days. The traffic, noise and crass behavior of humans is too much. Instead, I spend more time in my garden, watching the birds, talking to my dog and cat. They’re great listeners.

I often contemplate the folly of humans. Our profound ignorance. But I also consider the simple genius of the Sioux, moving as environmental and seasonal conditions changed. Moving south in the winters, north in the summers. A better lifeway.

And what do we do? We build enormous cities and golf courses in deserts and destroy the delicate balance of ecosystems systems. It’s because we have a ravenous appetite for development and profits. Money lust.

Black Elk aptly described our money lust when he first encountered white men, Wasichu, on the Madison Fork during the gold rush. He described gold as “yellow metal that they worship and that makes them crazy.”

Truer words were never spoken.



Are there too many people? How significant is population growth as it relates to climate change and overuse of global resources? From a scientific standpoint, the people debating this question are way over my pay grade, but at a very basic level, it makes sense that overpopulation plays a role in the overuse of global resources. The world has finite resources and carrying capacity, so you can’t have infinite growth in a world of finite resources.

All bioregions have carrying capacities.

Interestingly, the countries with the greatest population growth use far fewer resources than major industrial nations with lower rates of population growth. It appears that reducing the population will have some net positive effect on the environment, but once again, the primary issue appears to be unfettered growth capitalism.

Americans burn fuel and use resources like there’s no tomorrow. Daily Amazon deliveries, vacations to exotic places, millions of soft drinks shipped all over the country. Massive homes that require prodigious amounts of energy to heat and cool. Even data centers to house the enormous amounts of data we’re producing, including this blog post.

But hey, I’m grateful the “infallible” Pope has weighed in on the subject. Here we have a man that’s decided to not have children (and supposedly never had sex) telling people they are wrong to make similar decisions in their own lives. He also makes a point to tell people they shouldn’t practice birth control and is the head of a male dominated misogynist organization that somehow believes it’s qualified to dictate what women can do with their bodies. Go figure.

I found the linked podcast interesting, especially the accusation that its white dominated western industrial nations pointing their fingers at mostly non-white nations despite the fact the mostly non-white nations use far less energy. They don’t want to be told how many children they should have by the nations causing the problem. I get that, but that argument doesn’t take into account many of those nations face food shortages and relief is typically supplied by planes and planes need fuel. Population is a critical factor in arid areas of the planet.

Perhaps western nations should lead by example and be the first ones to sensibly address overpopulation. The Pope’s ideas notwithstanding.


I enjoyed reading a blog post by an old friend, Michael Lewis. Michael and I met around 1989 on a listserve dedicated to Edward Abbey. Michael was well versed in Ed’s ideas and works. I was a new comer, searching for answers to many questions in life. I’d become deeply interested in the natural world and in environmentalism, having instinctively come to the conclusion something was badly wrong with human society.

Abbey was one of the first people to write about the effect of growth capitalism on the natural world. He’s well known for both his fiction and non-fiction, but I more closely connected with his essays. That’s where he connected all the dots and hit the proverbial nail on the head. Basically, capitalistic growth, the need for constant growth, is our core problem. Capitalism’s ruthless commodification of life, its constant opening of new markets, non-stop development and the use of increasing amounts of fossil fuels is the problem that must be addressed. But that’s not happening. What is happening is the production and shipment of more Amazon boxes, more planes, more deforestation and more recently, increased mining of rare earth metals to produce electric cars.

Never is there any serious discussion about using less. Driving less. Fewer trips by plane. Reducing the amount of cheap plastic shit we buy from China and insisting it hit our door step within two days. Instead, our hubris is leading us down another dangerous path, one where we falsely hope technology will save us. Well, as Michael used to say, “There’s no free lunch. Mother Nature always bats last.” And another Lewis favorite, “‘Twas ever thus.”

I’m very pessimistic about our chances. I believe we’ve allowed climate change to go too far, and we can’t stop it, because most people don’t even understand the problem, much less know how to solve it. The notion that capitalist growth is the core issue is confined to a small set of academics and writers and their followers. They bravely wrote the truth, caring more about truth and finding solutions than making a best seller list. Anything that challenges growth capitalism is met with an immediate and forceful obloquy. You’re a commie. A Marxist. You hate America. People cannot imagine or tolerate the behavioral changes that are necessary for humans to survive on earth. And they certainly can’t handle the thought that their portfolios may need to take a hit.

What to do? Joel Kovel put forth some brilliant ideas in his work, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? It’s a well thought out framework for eco-socialism, where the economic system is bound and ultimately regulated by the laws of the natural world. A “steady state” economy where we live within limits. But Kovel’s ideas where so remote and not fully understandable by the masses. He was 100% right, but in order for that system to work, you’d have to have a fair number of powerful politicos to bring those ideas into the mainstream, make it easy to understand and then enact policies to make it possible. The only way to get anything done in America is via codification into law, because it’s the codification of law that makes everything, including wealth building, possible.

But Kovel was always suspicious about working within the system, and truth be told, those ideas are a bridge too far for Americans. Which makes me believe the only hope for meaningful change is via collapse, so Americans (and others) are forced to change. That’s not something I like to say, because it will involve untold human suffering. No one wants that, but I believe we’re like drug addicts and only a near death experience can force us to change.

All addiction programs begin with a simple premise. First, you have to admit there’s a problem. Only then can you begin to heal.


Is capitalism sustainable? No, not in its current form. In its current form, capitalism requires constant growth, and constant growth places an extreme burden on natural resources. Destruction of forests, pollution of our waters, extinction of species, the death of barrier reefs and the creation of unmanageable mounds of trash.

Perhaps there is no better evidence of its destructiveness than its role in climate change.

Yes, capitalism has brought us many blessings. It’s created wealth for millions. We have advanced medicine and technology and the profit motive played no small part in that process.

Yet, it is not benign. Because in addition to the environmental cost, humans apparently cannot be trusted to behave as egalitarians. In fact, we do just the opposite, hoarding vast sums of wealth while millions of workers can barely make ends meet. Why do so many people believe there are no moral issues when one person makes billions at the expense of other life forms?

Capitalism gave us workhouses, child labor, debtors prisons, collection agencies and the military industrial complex.

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Are there answers? I believe capitalism can improve and that humans may be able to thrive in an economic system that is more tightly bound by biological and geophysical boundaries. It requires the interdigitation of science and economics whereby economic decisions are made within the context of ecological carrying capacity. It also requires a greater blend of socialistic and capitalist ideas. This means more worker equity. We have a roadmap for this in other countries. True, they are much smaller nations, but there’s nothing that says proven principles can not be applied in larger scale.

And if we do nothing? Continued course means economic and ecological catastrophe. If the issues of income inequality, national debt and climate change are not effectively addressed, we will soon find ourselves in a perfect storm that will severely test even the strongest democratic states. It reminds me of Weimar Germany where a perfect storm of debt, inflation and growing hatred toward classes of people lead us to a devastating world war. Such conditions are fertile ground for strongmen and dictators to arise where nations circle their wagons and use violence as a primary tool of governance.

If you read Timothy Snyder, you’ll discover that Hitler was actually driven not just by racial hatred, but by ill-founded ecological concerns. Far beyond what we already knew about the concept of Lebansraum.  He feared his people would not be able to produce enough food and therefore looked eastward for fertile lands. And while his ecological concerns were misguided, it’s still an example of what can happen in a world where scarcity dominates the minds of despots and their duped followers. Reparations, inflation, racism and ecology coalesced, brought us a madman and the deaths of more than 70 million people.

In America, a good first step is for us to elect more progressive thinkers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. People that will resist the status quo and act in the interest of sound ecology and sustainable economics.

Continue course means economic collapse and ecocide.

The supporters of shallow ecology think that reforming human relations toward nature can be done within the existing structure of society.” — Arne Naess


Why do we no longer build things to last? In my community, commercial and residential construction looks like it has intentionally been built to destroy within half a lifetime. I routinely see houses built during the late 1970’s being torn down to make way for million dollar McMansions filled modern gadgetry and three car garages.

Where does all the construction trash go?

Most will say “cost” is the reason, but what are the long term costs? Development concerns seem to prioritize short term financial concerns over longer term societal issues.

But this is the way things are in America. As a people, we are mostly concerned with short term gratification and gains, not the longer term issues that will confront out children and grandchildren. Perhaps this is best evidenced by our mind-boggling inability to address climate change. We only care about now, blithely consuming energy as if there is no tomorrow and as if we’re the only generation that matters.