21 August 2012
Norman Pagett writes:
“Our present civilization is a gigantic motor car moving along a one-way road at an ever accelerating speed. Unfortunately as now constructed the car lacks both steering wheel and brakes, and the only form of control the driver exercises consists in making the car go faster, though in his fascination with the machine itself and his commitment to achieving the highest speed possible, he has quite forgotten the purpose of the journey.”
Lewis Mumford, The city in history, 1961
If world leaders were to achieve the impossible and reach agreement to control numbers, then estimates of a sustainable global population have been put at 2 billion, which would mean that each couple would be limited to an average of 1.5 children. Rigid adherence to this would indeed bring world population to the 2 billion level, but only over the course of more than a century. That has no chance of happening because such a rigidity would mean the end of the democracy we cherish. It would be an Orwellian nightmare but a professional administrator’s dream come true, where petty officials would have to be given the power to restrict the lives of everyone just as they did in China and India during their harsh attempts at population control.
None of us should be under any illusions about what a ‘reduction to sustainable levels’ would mean. While we might be persuaded of the necessity to agree that control is vital to save humanity, there is a universal rejection of the methods that would be needed to achieve it. Even with some broad acceptance of the idea, there would always be those who claimed exemption on the grounds of ‘’human rights’’ or religion. As an example, followers of the Mormon faith based in Salt Lake City, Utah, still insist that it is their ‘’fundamental religious duty” to have as many children as possible, in flagrant disregard of the broader needs of humanity, with families of 10 or more children being normal.
Utah itself might well be described as a state of denial, with its capital, Salt Lake City being in the top 10 water stressed cities in the USA. A population of 1.2 million people live in the middle of a semi-desert, wholly dependent on fossil fuel inputs for life support. While the breeding habits of a relatively small group of people won’t make much difference either way to our global problems, they nevertheless serve as an example of how the human mind refuses to be subjected to external control.
With a population that will double in 26 years at the present rate of growth – a ‘good thing’ – under Mormon dogma, Salt Lake City will become unsustainable and must collapse under the weight?of its own numbers. Theirs is a disregard for the future that is common to all of us, and reflects our world in microcosm. It perhaps reflects the denialism of Mitt Romney, but even though a Mormon, he is only one of billions who are denial of our future.