Sunday, April 10, 2011

Light in the Loafers (in the nicest possible way)

"We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as other creatures do." - 1972 Only One Earth Conference

I like to have a good title. Titles are important...they might attract or they might detract. I made this title from a hybrid of things said by two famous, international comedians: Robin Williams and Dame Edna Everage (aka Barry Humphries). Robin Williams refers to any gay man as "light in the loafers" and Dame Edna hands out backhanded compliments with the added proviso of "I mean that in the nicest possible way, darling."

I have been coming across quotes a fair bit lately and I found this one above. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a pithy summation of the discussions that must have gone on at this international conference.

Apparently "Only One Earth" was a report prepared for the United Nations and this report provided a conceptual basis for the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, 1972, held in Stockholm.

These were the early days of the environmental movement and indeed environmental concern in general about the effects humans were having on Planet Earth. So nearly 40 years later, how are we doing?

Not all that well, I would hazard to venture. If there was some extraterrestial teacher marking our report card, that teacher would probably write that age-old comment: "Could try harder."

Our world population has shot up, in just over two hundred years, from about a billion people around 1804  to about 6.91 billion in 2011.

You don't need to be a maths whiz to see that is exponential growth. We are too successful as a species and our longer lives and overpopulation of our environment are decreasing the habitats of all the other creatures we share the planet with. I seriously worry that even creatures I knew as a child will be extinct to my children and creatures they know will be unknown to their children.

The so-called "free world" likes to trumpet that Communism failed, but I would argue that true communism never got off the ground or is only found in isolated cases. The closest humans come to the true ideals of Marx and Engels are probably the tribal peoples still living traditional lives in remote pockets of the world. In China and Russia, they only have or had totalitarianism. Yes, folks, George Orwell was right. Human nature seems to crave superiority and status so you always get some "animals are more equal than others".

And capitalism may be in its last throes too. The myth we are sold of constant economic growth is just that: a myth. Nature has cycles, growth and decay. So does capitalism, boom and bust. But it looks increasingly like we have boomed our last booms. It is plain to see for most sensible people that constant economic growth is unsustainable.

We face a simple choice: embrace a much simpler lifestyle and plump for experience and interaction and creativity over material acquisition OR choke in our own filth and environmental degradation.

When all the rivers are poisoned, then WILL we eat our money?


  1. Such odd concepts, capitalism, communism, "free" markets, whatever happened to "just play nice"

  2. I really wish we could all "just play nice", as you say, AJ.