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The Limits Manifesto No Harm, No Hubris, No Hurry Bill Vitek Clarkson University June 19, 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "The Limits Manifesto No Harm, No Hubris, No Hurry Bill Vitek Clarkson University June 19, 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Limits Manifesto No Harm, No Hubris, No Hurry Bill Vitek Clarkson University June 19, 2007

2 It’s Time To Change Our Minds Vital Signs Vital Signs End of the World as We Know It End of the World as We Know It Must Stand Down From Our Insatiable Assault on Limits Must Stand Down From Our Insatiable Assault on Limits Must Accept Limits and Their Place in Our Lives Must Accept Limits and Their Place in Our Lives A Necessary Revolution in Education A Necessary Revolution in Education A Long Shot A Long Shot

3 A Failed Mental Model Applied Correctly Nature as Boundless Source and Sink Nature as Boundless Source and Sink Human Mind/Knowledge as Sufficient Human Mind/Knowledge as Sufficient Human Concerns First and Foremost Human Concerns First and Foremost Transgression of Limits Transgression of Limits Science Science Engineering Engineering Economics Economics Ethical Ethical

4 Vital Signs  Doomsday clock two minutes closer to midnight, “reflecting global failures to solve the problems posed by nuclear weapons and the climate crisis.”  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that “there is a 90% chance humans are responsible for climate change."

5 Vital Signs Peak Oil: first trillion barrels consumed in last 100 years; last trillion barrels in next 30 years. (A 22 year old today has lived through a time in which 540 billion barrels of oil has been consumed…  ~ 437 trillion lbs of new CO 2 in the atmosphere). Peak Oil: first trillion barrels consumed in last 100 years; last trillion barrels in next 30 years. (A 22 year old today has lived through a time in which 540 billion barrels of oil has been consumed…  ~ 437 trillion lbs of new CO 2 in the atmosphere). The current rate of species loss is being compared to the five known mass extinction waves. This “sixth wave” is anthrogenic. The current rate of species loss is being compared to the five known mass extinction waves. This “sixth wave” is anthrogenic. One billion people lack access to fresh water. One billion people lack access to fresh water. Soil destruction now claims 24 million acres a year world-wide, about half the size of Kansas, a quarter the size of California or 3.5 Marylands. Soil destruction now claims 24 million acres a year world-wide, about half the size of Kansas, a quarter the size of California or 3.5 Marylands.

6 Vital Signs Two of the most populous nations are becoming two of the largest economies. Two of the most populous nations are becoming two of the largest economies. Human population growth continues to follow an exponential curve. Human population growth continues to follow an exponential curve. There are currently 27 million slaves in the world, more than at any other time in human history. There are currently 27 million slaves in the world, more than at any other time in human history. Eight nations possess nuclear weapons, and two are working to acquire them. Eight nations possess nuclear weapons, and two are working to acquire them.

7 Problems in Carbon Creek  Interconnected  “Solutions” often make matters worse  Early daylight savings increased energy use  Jevons Paradox  The recipe for success is broken  Unleash human ingenuity  Harness and commodify nature’s immense and complex forces (90 million acres of US corn in ’07)  Enjoy the new and improved world that results  Repeat

8 A Trip To Exponentialville

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16 Beyond the Rock is a Hard Place We are nearly at the end of a line of thinking that is no longer supportable by the material and energy conditions upon which it rests. We are nearly at the end of a line of thinking that is no longer supportable by the material and energy conditions upon which it rests. We need to dismantle the worldview that is dismantling the world. We need to dismantle the worldview that is dismantling the world.

17 Changing Our Minds/et New Conceptual Models New Conceptual Models New/Old Standards New/Old Standards Renewed Respect for Boundaries Renewed Respect for Boundaries Ethical Ethical Epistemological Epistemological Ecosystemic Ecosystemic

18 Current Worldview Assumptions Mind-Reality Interface Mind-Reality Interface Knowledge is Possible Knowledge is Possible Knowledge is Power Knowledge is Power Divide and Conquer Divide and Conquer Nature is Passive Nature is Passive The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts

19 Assumptions Continued Technical and Scientific Knowledge are Value Free Technical and Scientific Knowledge are Value Free All Mistakes are Fixable All Mistakes are Fixable “Cross that bridge when we come to it” “Cross that bridge when we come to it” Knowledge accumulates and drives out ignorance Knowledge accumulates and drives out ignorance

20 Assumptions Challenged Nature is not passive Nature is not passive Whole not equal to the sum of the parts Whole not equal to the sum of the parts Knowledge is not value free Knowledge is not value free Ignorance increases with increased knowledge Ignorance increases with increased knowledge Some mistakes are less fixable than others Some mistakes are less fixable than others Greater Knowledge=Greater Responsibility Greater Knowledge=Greater Responsibility

21 Manifesto Propositions Provide a foundation for a new and improved way of looking at the world. Provide a foundation for a new and improved way of looking at the world. Rely on a base of knowledge that describes the state of the world as we best understand it now. Rely on a base of knowledge that describes the state of the world as we best understand it now. Suggest a range of choices and actions consistent with this understanding. Suggest a range of choices and actions consistent with this understanding. Contribute to the process of curtailing the many ailments of our global home and its myriad inhabitants. Contribute to the process of curtailing the many ailments of our global home and its myriad inhabitants.

22 Manifesto Creed “I accept The Limits Manifesto Propositions regarding moral behavior, the pursuit of knowledge, and the use of the earth’s material and energy productivity, and I hereby pledge no harm, no hubris, and no hurry in my daily thoughts and actions.”

23 Proposition One: No Harm  Except for planet Earth, life seems pretty rare in the universe. Thoughtlessly and willingly destroying it or limiting the diversity and co- evolution of life, especially at the level of species, is a moral wrong among self-conscious creatures who surely know better by now.

24 Proposition Two: No Hubris  Human beings are the unintended offspring of evolutionary biology, and as such lack any special or pre-ordained tools for divining the world’s inner workings.  Closer to our cousin apes than gods in all things—and genetically 99.5 percent Neanderthal—we should refuse to think otherwise.  We should behave as if our ignorance will always exceed our knowledge. It will.

25 Proposition Three: No Hurry All life depends on sunlight and the complex and integrated chemical and thermodynamic processes it powers. All life depends on sunlight and the complex and integrated chemical and thermodynamic processes it powers. Net Primary Production (NPP) is the term that describes the energic and organic material production of these ecosystem processes. Net Primary Production (NPP) is the term that describes the energic and organic material production of these ecosystem processes. NPP is constrained by many factors and cannot be substantially improved, increased or sped up over time without the addition of inputs from outside the system. NPP is constrained by many factors and cannot be substantially improved, increased or sped up over time without the addition of inputs from outside the system.

26 Proposition Three: No Hurry Our high life of consumption is brought to us by contemporary NPP and the rapid drawdown of an eon or more worth of accumulated fresh water and highly energy-dense materials (stored Natural Capital). Our high life of consumption is brought to us by contemporary NPP and the rapid drawdown of an eon or more worth of accumulated fresh water and highly energy-dense materials (stored Natural Capital). Across the board this drawdown is increasingly noticeable in the exploitation of soils, aquifers, oil and natural gas. Across the board this drawdown is increasingly noticeable in the exploitation of soils, aquifers, oil and natural gas. In the grand sweep of human history and culture, these are one-time draw downs. In the grand sweep of human history and culture, these are one-time draw downs.

27 Proposition Three: No Hurry  We can’t speed up natural processes.  Our only option is to slow ourselves down.

28 No Harm, No Hubris, No Hurry Each is a limit on human behavior. Each is a limit on human behavior. Each requires us to think of ourselves and the world in which we live in radically and deeply different ways. Each requires us to think of ourselves and the world in which we live in radically and deeply different ways. Each will sound and feel foreign to us. Each will sound and feel foreign to us. All are necessary for the transition that is coming. All are necessary for the transition that is coming.

29 Action Items Become an Ambassador of Limits. Become an Ambassador of Limits. Block the “No-Limits” dogma peddled by technological optimists and economic theorists. Block the “No-Limits” dogma peddled by technological optimists and economic theorists. Acknowledge Net Primary Production as the only long-term feedstock for sustaining life. Acknowledge Net Primary Production as the only long-term feedstock for sustaining life. Slow down. And when going fast admit your role in the run on the bank. Slow down. And when going fast admit your role in the run on the bank. Welcome limits as one of the initial and permanent operating conditions for any system with life in it. Welcome limits as one of the initial and permanent operating conditions for any system with life in it.

30 Action Items Resist solutions that ignore human population. Resist solutions that ignore human population. Resist solutions that create extinctions. Resist solutions that create extinctions. Count calories, including those embodied in our everyday products. Count calories, including those embodied in our everyday products. Understand and appreciate the role that nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium—play in your life. Understand and appreciate the role that nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium—play in your life. Demand a public and accurate accounting of our Net Primary Production feed stocks and capital stocks. Demand a public and accurate accounting of our Net Primary Production feed stocks and capital stocks.

31 Action Items Demand that losses of natural capital be accounted for in any calculation of costs and benefits. Demand that losses of natural capital be accounted for in any calculation of costs and benefits. Discount efficiency as nothing more than a clever way to increase consumption (Jevons Paradox). Discount efficiency as nothing more than a clever way to increase consumption (Jevons Paradox). Accept blame yourself. Accept blame yourself. Honor your debt to the universe by drinking a toast to its—and your—continued existence. Honor your debt to the universe by drinking a toast to its—and your—continued existence. You can do this every day. You can do this every day.

32 Why This is So Difficult Flashy Brains Flashy Brains Genesis Genesis Prometheus Prometheus The Enlightenment The Enlightenment Manifest Destiny Manifest Destiny Geological Inheritance Geological Inheritance Crediting the Brains (the pumps) rather than the Inheritance (the well) Crediting the Brains (the pumps) rather than the Inheritance (the well) Bacteria in a Petri Dish and the Evolutionary Disposition to Live to Excess Bacteria in a Petri Dish and the Evolutionary Disposition to Live to Excess

33 Why This Is So Necessary Using the Tree of Knowledge to Protect the Tree of Life Using the Tree of Knowledge to Protect the Tree of Life A True Test and Testament of a Well-Developed Neo-Cortex A True Test and Testament of a Well-Developed Neo-Cortex There’s Still Time There’s Still Time The Scope of the Problem is Global The Scope of the Problem is Global Limits are the Key to Creativity Limits are the Key to Creativity

34 Spread The Pledge! No Harm No Hubris No Hurry


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