…many scientists suggest that human progress, understood in such a way, cannot reach ever greater heights. Indeed, the impacts of environmental shocks, food shortages, or technological developments may cause civilisation to break down. Martin Rees’s Our Final Century, Jared Diamond’s Collapse and Stephen Emmott’s 10 Billion, by a physicist, biologist and computer scientist respectively, each explore these concerns. The clear implication is that without radical changes to human society we may be undone by our own actions.
The difficulty for scientists having identified such potentially serious problems is what to do. There are no easy answers. Many consider it dangerous even for scientists to mention big political ideas of social and economic change. Won’t it upset our paymasters? Won’t it undermine the credibility of science? And this is where environmentalists’ political visions, and scientists’ complex relationships with politics, I think, come in.
The mild green view is that human society must profoundly change to live within environmental limits. The strong view is that capitalism is ultimately unsustainable. We have all heard the message: we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Nature doesn’t do bailouts. We should work less, consume less and live more. Environmentalists’ ideas are the most visible political expression taking seriously issues such as biodiversity loss, climate change and unsustainable resource exploitation that scientific analyses have identified as problems. Unsurprisingly, a good number of scientists are supportive of environmentalist causes.
Posted by KWB wandering among the borderlands of the Ether.
- Good science makes for good story (presentationzen.com)
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- We need a science fit for the challenges of our future (theguardian.com)
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- Open Access and Its Enemies, Redux (jbrittholbrook.com)