Sacrificing His Core Supporters in a Race Against Defeat
Life on this planet is a fragile affair, a kind of miraculous microbial activity that flourishes on the thin film of air and water and decomposed rock which separates the uninhabitable core of the earth from the void of space. Over most of mankind's history, the existence of that environment has always been taken for granted, and human efforts have been devoted to "taming" it-that is, to altering that vital film in various ways to assure our easier survival. Now, with stunning suddenness we have come to the realization that the environment is not to be taken for granted after all- indeed that it may be on the verge of an irremediable deterioration. For if the calculations of a group of social and physical scientists are correct, it will take only another 50 years of population growth and economic expansion at present rates to cause a collapse of our life-supporting ambient, bringing mass famine in some areas, industrial breakdown in others, a drastic shortening of lifespans nearly everywhere.
This terrifying scenario stems primarily from the work of Jay Forrester and a team of scientists at M.I.T. who have projected, by means of computerized models, the complex interactions of human activity and the environment. The models form the basis for two clarion calls for an immediate halt to the destruction of the environment-"A Blueprint for Survival,"[i] signed by some 30 eminent British scientists, and a much touted and widely circulated book, "The Limits to Growth,"[ii] sponsored by The Club of Rome, an international "invisible college" of 70 scientists and specialists. Essentially, both studies tell us the same thing-that if we are to preserve the life-supporting capabilities of our all-important film of air, water and soil, economic growth must be brought to a halt as rapidly as possible. For the projections on which the two studies rest show that even if population growth halts within two generations, even if we discover "unlimited" new resources, and even if we remove three-quarters of the pollution we generate, continued industrial growth by itself will still bring us to a condition of "self-destruct" within the lifetimes of our grandchildren. Well before the year 2100, the population of the earth would then begin a period of decline as dramatic as that of Europe during the Black Death, but unhappily by no means so short in duration.
This is a projection so overwhelming in magnitude that it is difficult to confront it with any sense of detachment and balanced appraisal. Indeed, rather than detachment, the need of the hour seems to be a call to arms-or rather, to the crash program described by the scientists of the "Blueprint" and the "Limits." Yet, in full recognition of the gravity of the situation, I would propose a different course. In the end, the scenario that I project is no less sobering than that of the anti-growth school, but, as we shall see, it leads to a very different strategy for our times.
Let me begin by recapitulating very succinctly some of the trends and facts that have led to the recent impassioned call for a halt to economic growth. The first of these is by now so familiar that it may have lost its power to shock, but it must nevertheless be our starting point. This is the fearsome growth of population, increasing at a rate that doubles every 30 years. Today estimated at 3.5 billion, world population is pressing toward the level of 28 billion less than a century hence-I say "pressing," since no estimate that I have seen envisages increases in food production within that time span sufficient to feed such a multitude.
Of course, this neglects the potential braking effect of birth control. There is a growing consensus that demographic increase can be brought to a halt in the industrialized nations by the year 2000; and there is the possibility that net reproduction rates can be brought to zero in the underdeveloped world (where population is still doubling every 18 to 20 years) within two generations. Unhappily, because so much of the population in these areas is under child-bearing age, even a drop to zero net reproduction rates-approximately one female child per married couple-will not bring total population growth in these areas to zero, as larger and larger "cohorts" of children will continue to reach the age of fertility for some time. At best, then, demographers estimate that we will "only" have to cope with a global population of 15 billion by the year 2060. In fact, the number may be much larger.
The population explosion brings us to the physical problems of the carrying capacity of the earth-I shall leave unmentioned such essentially social problems as cancerous urban growth or the psychological effects of overcrowding. The first of these physical problems is that we will simply run out of the resources required to maintain the present pace of industrial expansion. Curiously, this is not a problem that is immediately connected with population growth, for the great bulk of industrial activity in the world is concentrated in the advanced areas where the demographic problem is least severe. Industrial expansion in the advanced nations is today growing at a rate of about seven percent a year-a rate that doubles total output every ten years. If we therefore look ahead 50 years, it is probable that industrial output, using existing techniques, will have increased by the exponential number of five-doubling in 10 years, quadrupling in 20, octupling in 30, etc. Anyone familiar with the power of compound interest will recognize this curve as one whose upward slope becomes ever steeper.
Can we feed the industrial megamachine that these projections indicate? The table below, on which the anti-growth school bases its case, indicates that we cannot.
GLOBAL RESOURCE AVAILABILITY
Years available at Years available if Resource present growth rates resources are quintupled Aluminum 31 55 Coal III 150 Copper 21 48 Iron 93 173 Lead 21 64 Manganese 46 94 Natural Gas 22 49 Petroleum 20 50 Silver 13 42 Tin 15 61 Tungsten 28 72
The table (based in the main on estimates of the U.S. Bureau of Mines) makes two formidable points. First, according to existing estimates, there are not enough resources to allow industrial expansion to continue unhindered at a compound rate of seven percent a year for anything like 50 years-much less a century-with the exception of a few items such as coal or iron. Long before then, the exhaustion of first one and then another critical resource would have effectively brought the trajectory of growth to a halt. Thereafter, the M.I.T. computerized models show industrial output abruptly entering a period of steep and prolonged decline.
Second, the table reveals that even very large increases in resource discovery, such as the five-fold enlargement shown in the column at the right, add only disconcertingly small increments of time over which exponentially growing industrial output can be maintained. As we shall see, the problem of the astonishing rapidity with which an exponential series reaches any given finite limit appears again and again in the environmentalists' drama. So far as resources are concerned, this fact contains an important warning against expecting too much from the possibility of recycling scarce materials which, like the discovery of new resources, only adds a finite increment of new resources.
An even more serious aspect of the industrial growth problem is the capacity of the earth, not to yield up the needed resources, but to absorb the residues and wastes, the harmful products and by-products of industrial production-in a word, its ability to withstand the effects of pollution. "Pollution" is a word that covers many kinds of unwanted direct or side- effects of economic activity. There are pollutants that are nuisances, such as noise pollution or littering, and pollution that is local in extent-Lake Erie may be "dead," but its corpse is confined within its geographic boundaries. On the other hand there is pollution that is deadly, such as radiation, and pollution that is globally diffused-for example, lead spewed into the air by American and European cars has shown up over the last 30 years in a three-fold increase in the amount of lead in the Greenland icecap.
It is the second class of pollutants on which the environmental scientists focus their attention. Many examples of it have become familiar, although no less frightening for that reason. A now famous claim is that most mother's milk in the United States contains so much DDT that it would be declared illegal in interstate commerce if it were sold as is cow's milk. Less widely publicized, but of no less significance, are the effects of nitrates and phosphates deposited in the soil by chemical fertilizers. Nitrates, in particular, enter the water supply and are then converted within the human body into nitrites, which cause infant mortality. Chemical fertilizers also cause soil leaching and lead to eutrophication of the bodies of water into which they drain, bringing about huge algae "blooms" and the death of large marine populations.
Central to the argument against economic growth is that these deadly and globally diffused pollutants are also increasing exponentially, along with, and as a direct result of, exponential industrial growth. We shall have a chance later to examine some of the presumptions on which this contention rests. But there is no doubt that pollution is ultimately the mortal enemy in the eyes of the anti-growth school. For there are certain kinds of pollution that cannot be avoided, short of the most far-reaching changes in our industrial technology, and one kind that cannot be avoided by any known or imagined technology.
In the first class lies the polluting effect of the process of combustion, the central source of power throughout the world today. Combustion is a term that describes the conversion of oxygen into carbon dioxide in the process of "burning." As a result of the massive burning by which the industrial mechanism is kept operative (not to mention that which supplies heat for our homes), the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is steadily rising. Extrapolating from present trends, we can predict that it will increase by some 30 percent during the next 30 years. Scientists are uncertain but uneasy about the effects of this altered composition in changing the vital heat-trapping properties of the atmosphere. Over the longer run, they fear as well the slow exhaustion of the oxygen supply itself. Today the United States already consumes more oxygen than its green cover can regenerate. This is a process that can continue for a very long time, but not forever-especially if the entire world were to attain U.S. levels of combustion per capita.
Even more portentous is the problem of the production of heat. Inherent in the production of energy in any form is the generation of heat. Professors Pirages and Ehrlich have recently warned that the use of energy on an American per capita scale for the 750 million who today occupy mainland China would release heat in certain areas that could lead to "major, unpredictable effects" in climatic patterns. If we scale up this warning to take into account the 15 billion who may inhabit the earth in another three generations, we are forced to contemplate the possibility that an American standard of heat-generation at these population levels might bring an environmental disaster comparable to the onset of the Ice Ages.
In the face of these overwhelming facts, that sense of detachment and balance of which I spoke earlier is not easy to achieve. It may be helpful to begin, therefore, by considering growth from another point of view- paying no heed for a moment to its destructive effects and emphasizing instead its constructive implications.
This brings us back to the population explosion that provided our initial point of entry into the ecological problem. Given the minimum figure of 15 billion a century hence, we confront a human problem that immediately places growth in a wholly new perspective. For it makes clear that any effort to strive for zero growth in industrial output today would, in effect, be a decision to deprive the forthcoming population of its ability to subsist. Such a decision might impose a very rapid "solution" to the population problem, but it would be the solution of starvation. Moreover, since most of the prospective population of the coming generations will be crowded into the underdeveloped areas, the forecast also makes it clear that growth in industrial output in those areas must take place faster than population, if the billions who are to be born in those regions can ever attain a standard of living better than that which they now "enjoy." At least some indication of the magnitude of this required increase can be gained in comparing the GNP per capita of Portugal-hardly a nation known for her high material standard of life--with that of the backward regions. In 1966, GNP per capita in Portugal was $529; in East and Southeast Asia (excluding Japan) it was $114; in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa) under $100. Thus if the poorest two-thirds of the world's prospective population are not merely to subsist, but to make an ascent to the level of a Portuguese peasant, output in the backward lands will have to rise about 12- to 15-fold--first to accommodate a probable three-fold increase in sheer numbers, then another four- or five- fold to supply each of these new inhabitants with an income on a Portuguese scale.
Admittedly, figures such as these must be treated with great caution. Gross national product is a very inadequate indicator of human well-being. In many of the backward lands important improvements could be made in the quality of life merely by the attainment of stable and just governments and economic systems, the introduction of literacy, the vigorous promotion of public health measures including birth control and the repair of nutritional deficiencies. These changes are not likely to be reflected in changes in GNP to the extent that increases in steel production would be, even though their importance may be incomparably greater and their demands on the environment incomparably less. Therefore the need for growth in living standards must not be assumed inevitably to require environmental damage.
Yet, with all these caveats, the fact of a relentless burgeoning of populations-and the hope for a rise in their material consumption-makes inevitable the need for very large increases in physical output. Huge additions to food production, textile output and simple shelters will be required to sustain, much less elevate, the prospective billions in the backward world. In turn this requires the output of vast quantities of fertilizer, of steel, of cement and bricks and lumber, with all the environmental problems we have seen. That vast-although somewhat indeterminate-increase in needed output provides a powerful incentive to rethink the desirability of "zero industrial growth."
Now let us add to it the demands for growth stemming from the industrialized world. We may be tempted, of course, to dispute the moral value of much of this growth. Do we need more luxury goods per capita? Would not our own quality of life be vastly improved by increases in nonmaterial "outputs," or by the redistribution of what we already possess? However valid these queries, they are as irrelevant to the problem of the environmental challenge as questions regarding the "morality" of the projected population increases in the East and South. What we are interested in, both with regard to population and industrial output, are the levels to which the world will be "pressing" under the enormous inertia of its present social forces. Any realistic appraisal tells us that just as there will be vast increases in population if that population can be kept alive, so there will be vast increases in industrial output if that output is attainable. The question, then, is whether we have the resources and the absorptive capacity to allow that mounting trend of industrial output to materialize.
This returns us to the question of basic resources whose alarming limitations we have already noted. Do those limitations mean that potential industrial growth will be throttled by resource exhaustion, just as potential population growth may be curbed by food exhaustion?
Before we leap to that gloomy conclusion, we must reëxamine the table itself-or rather, the facts on which the table rests. Here the first important consideration is that those "facts"-the basic data of resource availability-are very insecure. With the possible exception of a few items (such as natural gas within U.S. continental boundaries), we have only the haziest knowledge of the full extent of the resources of the world. Indeed, the fact that for the past many decades each generation has ended its period of growth with larger amounts of "proved" reserves of many resources than it started with suggests that the size of our "known" reserves is mainly determined by the effort we invest in looking for them. In the Soviet Union, for example, the huge Siberian subcontinent has barely been prospected: one Russian economist recently estimated offhandedly that it contained the wherewithal for "a thousand years" of Russian resource needs. So, too, the South American continent is still largely terra incognita, and may reveal as much totally unexpected wealth as did, for example, the rich Alaskan oil slope or the Libyan oil fields, both vast reservoirs which have been discovered only in the last decade. Thus an "optimistic" estimate of the availability of resources may in reality not be five times the present estimates, but ten or 50 times. This does not rescue the world from the problem of exponential growth per capita, but it defers the day of reckoning by another generation or two.
Second, it is necessary to take into account a technological reality that the table cannot reflect. This is the substitutability that exists among resources. For instance, there is a strong likelihood that we will use up our reservoirs of natural gas and petroleum in another generation. However, the table does not show (nor do the anti-growth scientists discuss) the possibility of shifting to alternative sources of fossil fuel, such as the enormous reserves of oil shale the world possesses. By way of analogy we should recall that today we feed our steel industry with low grade ores that fifty years ago, when the Mesabi Range was still yielding its high- grade ores, were not even considered as potential "reserves." Thus, resource substitution also defers the day of reckoning by an indeterminate, but possibly quite substantial, period.
That pushing-back of the time frontier is all-important with regard to the resource problem. For potentially the globe has limitless resources- limitless, at least, in reference to the needs of its microbial surface-in the minerals locked into its rocks and sea water. Given enough power, which nuclear energy now begins to promise us, we could literally "melt" the rocks and reconstitute any substance by synthetic processes. To be sure, such processes would entail the processing of enormous quantities of seawater or granite, with associated problems of disposal and thermal pollution. But from the point of view of sheer bottle-necks of supply, the long-term future holds out much more promise than the anti-growth school of thought reveals.
The basic question, then, when we consider the ultimate resources of seawater and granite, is how long it will take us to achieve the power and the techniques needed to bring these alchemic possibilities into actuality. I do not know what time scales are to be attached to these objectives, but on the answers will depend the rate at which we can safely use up "raw" materials before we switch to synthetic ones.
If the scientific consensus is that fusion power is improbable (we know it is not impossible) for an "indefinite" period, we shall have to reconcile ourselves to the scale of resource use that is compatible with fission power. If our scientists agree that certain problems of synthetic chemistry will take us "generations" to solve, then we shall have to husband carefully those substances whose supplies will be limited to the amounts we can recycle each year from our industrial process. Thus the resource problem hinges finally on our scientific and technological capabilities. Judging by the past it would be foolish to take an attitude of determined pessimism before these capabilities. For if there is one factor that ultimately limits our growth from the input side, it is our reservoir of knowledge of science and technology, and the exponential curve of that resource soars steadily upward without sign of limit.
But what about barriers imposed by pollutants? Here, as I have said, are the most serious of the limits to growth put forth by the M.I.T. studies. Yet there is a certain arbitrariness in their treatment of pollutants. The models showing "collapse" in 50 to 100 years make the "generous" assumption that we can reduce pollution by a factor of four. Why not 40 or 400? At this critical juncture, the anti-growth school musters no evidence at all. Yet, could not one argue plausibly that the technology of pollution- suppression may increase its effectiveness exponentially, along with growth?
In the end, we are left, to be sure, with the long-run problems of carbon dioxide and heat. The former may be avoided by a shift of technologies away from combustion toward nuclear fission or fusion; the latter remains a brooding presence. It is only fair to add, however, that the presence is uncertain. The measurements of changes in the temperature of the earth's ambient are imprecise; we do not even possess very accurate knowledge of the relative effects of man's heat pollution compared with nature's-there are, after all, volcanoes, geothermal springs and currents, the steady heat input of solar energy. Thus, while there is every reason to be cautious, panic is hardly indicated. "The principal defect of the industrial way of life with its ethos of expansion," begins "A Blueprint for Survival," "is that it is not sustainable." In the end, that charge, with its exponential emphasis, cannot be faulted. That end, however, is still probably far distant. The question, then, is what to do about it now.
The authors of the "Blueprint" and "Limits" have a very clear idea of what to do about it now. We must engage in an all-out effort to bring about zero population and zero industrial growth as soon as possible. To that end, every technological means to reduce waste, expand resource availability through recycling, and to lower pollution must be vigorously pushed. But ultimately, the prime requirement is the attainment of a society in which both the size of population and of the capital stock are stable. In a word, the only solution for ecological equilibrium is the stationary, growthless state.
This is a very curious solution for two reasons. The first, to which the studies pay only fleeting heed, is that a "stationary" state-one in which industrial growth had ceased-would not necessarily be a society in ecological balance. This is because a society can be "stationary" and can still be polluting the environment. Indeed, under the assumptions of the M.I.T. model, a stationary state will still asphyxiate itself, although it will take somewhat longer to do it.
Second, a stationary state, as we have seen, would impose fearful costs on the populations of the underdeveloped world and severe institutional strains within the industrialized world. Suppose, however, that it were possible to go on growing-producing more grain, more consumer goods-without adding to pollution, by the discovery of new and better seeds, or cleaner production processes. Would there then be any reason to deny more food and more consumer goods to the poor, or even to the rich? I can think of none, and I suspect that the members of the anti-growth school cannot either.
A very important conclusion follows. As the M.I.T. models themselves show, it is not "growth" that is the mortal enemy, but pollution. The program of the ecologically minded scientist, therefore, should not be aimed against growth, but only against pollution-generating growth. Any technological change that will increase output without further damaging the air or water or soil, any technological change that will enable us to increase output by shifting from a less to a more abundant resource (again, without an increase in pollution), represents perfectly safe growth, and should be welcomed with open arms.
This emphasis on finding "cures" for pollution, resource exhaustion and population growth clearly puts technology in the key position. To this, the M.I.T. scientists reply that too much reliance on technology diverts us from taking "effective action" on the problem of growth. Does it? Let us assume that the anti-growth scientists are correct, and that they convince their colleagues around the world that collapse will be inevitable within a generation or two unless fully corrective measures are begun today.
What sorts of measures would these be? In the underdeveloped world, we would certainly require the imposition of compulsory birth control aimed at a negative net reproduction rate (say only one child-not one female child- per family); in the advanced countries, stringent measures to bring immediate zero population growth. In the underdeveloped world, we would have to stop the green revolution with its agricultural increases bought only at the expense of vast, pollution-generating fertilizer inputs; in the developed world, we would necessarily anticipate decreases in food production as a result of a ban on chemical fertilizers. Further industrialization might perhaps be permitted in the neediest countries-a few steel mills in Asia and Africa; an absolute halt to capital formation would be necessary in the West.
I could extend the list of particulars, but there is little point in doing so. For it is clear that the imposition of such a program is far beyond our existing political and social capabilities. What Asian, African or South American leader, confronted with all the scientific evidence in the world, would endorse such a program for his people now? What Western statesman would advocate a program of immediate asceticism to avert a disaster that is still at least a century away?
What is at stake here is more than the obvious resistance that such measures would encounter from existing political and economic institutions. It is also a matter of our personal willingness to undergo present sacrifice for the well-being of our unborn progeny. I have wondered, for example, how many of the 100-odd signers of the "Blueprint" and the "Limits" have sold their automobiles or never take a taxi? I wonder how many have dispensed with all unnecessary gadgets in their homes, use both sides of the page when they type a manuscript, flush their toilets but once a day, and generally conduct themselves with the Spartan restraint integral to a program of economic limitations such as they urge?
In a differently constituted society, such an identification with future generations might be possible. It is not easy to find in our own. Of course I know that a beginning has been made. Some toxic products have been banned. Anti-pollution laws have been written. A concern for ecology has become part of the standard political rhetoric. But measured against the scale of action demanded by the anti-growth scientists, what has been done is pitifully inadequate. Anti-pollution measures have been contested and evaded by powerful economic interests. The determination of family size has been declared by our President to be a "personal matter." The most casual inspection of cityscape or landscape testifies to the lack of concern for our own generation, much less for coming generations.
The problem evaded by the anti-growth school, in other words, is how to mobilize the social will-how to induce us to apply existing technologies against the resistance of entrenched interests and ordinary people alike. If we are to mount a response on the scale they propose, I suspect there is only one way-by the ghastly appearance of the initial stages of ecological disaster itself. A temperature inversion that takes the lives of a few thousand people in New York or Tokyo may lead to banning cars and smoke from those cities; a horrifying rise in infant mortality traceable to nitrate-based fertilizers may bring effective bans on chemical additives to the soil. Short of such terrible stimuli, I do not believe that the pace of industrial growth will be significantly slowed in the cause of environmental safety or that the overloading of the environment will be significantly diminished. Thus if, in the end, I pin my faith on "technology"-meaning the search for resource-extending and for pollution- suppressing techniques, even if they remain for a long while unused-it is because I cannot think of anything today that is more likely to be useful in the solution of the problem that one day mankind will have to solve.
That brings us finally to the fundamental problem of containing within a finite system an ever-mounting volume of contaminants. Here, as I have said, the scientists are right. However "alarmist" the data on which their models are based, however naive their call for social change on a scale that is beyond reach and by means they do not make explicit, one cannot fault their assertion that the exponential curves of growth, human and industrial, will sooner or later overtake the finite capabilities of the biosphere, bringing dreadful declines in population and in the quality of life. I have suggested that the period of grace before that time of catastrophe and collapse may be considerably longer than they project, but it is not an indefinite period. Sooner or later the problem must be faced.
But how is it to be faced? Let me try to answer the problem by stressing an aspect of it which we have hitherto ignored-the extent of the institutional changes needed to attain a condition of ecological equilibrium. Central among these changes will assuredly be the extension of public control far beyond anything yet experienced in the West, Socialist or capitalist. To bring environmental stability, the authority of government must necessarily be expanded to include family size, consumption habits, and of course the volume and composition of industrial and agricultural output. In a word, the social price of ecological control is a vast increase in the scope and penetration of regulatory authority, designed to enforce the necessary zero- growth behavior at the micro level on which our collective safety will depend at the macro level.
It is here that my scenario departs most strikingly from that of the authors of the "Limits" and the "Blueprint" and the anti-growth community in general. More sanguine than they about the technological possibilities of continuing industrial growth for a considerable period, I am far more pessimistic about the ease with which such a social transition can be made.[iii] In the West, for example, surely the eventual necessity for a stabilized flow of output (quite aside from the other regulatory interventions that may be needed) spells the end of the mindlessly self- aggrandizing corporation as we now know it. Whether capitalism can adapt to the tensions of such a static state, in which growth no longer tempers the struggle over the division of the social product, is a moot question. If something called "capitalism" does survive, it will surely be cast in a very different mold than it is today.
Nor is the prospect an easy one for the industrial Socialist nations. Ministries as well as corporations find the ethos of growth both exhilarating and socially useful, and will find the constraints of a growthless state much more cramping than those of an expanding one. Perhaps more fundamental, socialism has always assumed a condition of "abundance" as the precondition for the inauguration of a "true" Communist society. Given the constraints of ecological limits that cannot be safely breached, that ideological premise must be abandoned; and the institutions and incentives of true communism re-thought.
More sobering yet-for who cares, in the perspective of ultimate environmental safety, if the institutions of present-day capitalism or socialism disappear?-is whether global requirements of pollution control and resource conservation can be imposed on-or will be shattered by-the ferociously guarded boundaries of "national interest." Indeed, we might well ask whether the approach toward the ecological disaster point will encourage the more equitable international distribution of the means of life, or will only serve to fortify the resolve of favored nations to preserve their own good fortune against the rest?
Thus the ecological problem is indeed fundamental-but in another way than that which the anti-growth scientists stress. Essentially, their dilemma of exponential growth and finite environmental space involves problems of technology that will be solved-or will not be solved-over a fairly long run. But much more immediate, there is another problem in the social changes that will have to be begun in our generation and carried further in the next generations to come. The "fundamental" problem is therefore a social as well as a technical one; and whereas I have indicated some reason for optimism with regard to our technical capabilities for adaptation, I do not find it so easy to be sanguine with respect to our near-term ability to bring about the needed social and institutional changes.
But that very fact may help us answer the question with which we began and with which we now end: how is the environmental challenge to be faced? For clearly something is required in addition to that "sense of detachment and balanced appraisal" of which I spoke before. This additional element is the cultivation and gradual dissemination of a changed attitude to the environment-indeed, to life itself: an attitude based on a wholly new awareness of the fragility of our planet as a life-supporting vehicle.
As I have stressed, it would be foolish to expect such a change in attitude to manifest itself quickly in the face of the needs, the desires, and the institutional inertias of our time. None the less a beginning can be made- indeed, is being made by the very arguments we have been considering in this piece. In becoming aware of the hitherto unsuspected existence of a crucial environmental challenge, we feel within ourselves the first stirrings of an unaccustomed view of the human future, and of our responsibility for assuring that there will be a human future. Our generation is unlikely to solve the technical problems that will guarantee the indefinite viability of the planet, and will surely not solve the social challenges that are indissolubly associated with mankind's survival. But in the startled recognition that an ultimate ecological problem exists, it can set the stage for more decisive action by generations to follow.
[i] "A Blueprint for Survival," The Ecologist, January 1972.
[ii] "The Limits to Growth," by D. H. Meadows, D. L. Meadows, J. Randers and W. W. Behrens III. New York: Universe Books (A Potomac Associates Book), 1972.
[iii] The authors of the "Blueprint" do indeed describe a kind of balanced social system in which ecological safety is maintained by carefully planned small rural communities. Like all Utopias, it is a joy to contemplate. Alas, like all Utopias it contains not a word as to how we are to go from where we are to where we are supposed to be.