Is it “push and shove” or skillful avoidance?

One of the interesting exchanges on: the George Monbiot discussion page, this one on “The Process is Dead”


JR, The question is confusing, no doubt, as to the difference between resource limits, which are absolute, and whether species evolve to seek or avoid conflict. I always find that on such questions the answer is “both” and that nature has more variety in her strategies than any theory is capable of incorporating.

I pick up on that partly because my research method is partly to look for things any theory “doesn’t” explain, to be led to the other sides of how systems work and develop.

It takes no learning to run out of food, for example, but takes a lot of creativity and learning to find steady food sources that do not bring you in direct conflict with others. Nature seems to use both techniques. Since the learning task people have to survive on earth seems more about discovering the importance of latter, is why I talk about it.

The perceptual problem is that if you’re not looking for how to stay out of conflict you you’re not inclined to perceiving conflict approaching. To me it appears a variety of natural systems with essentially “no brains at all” are fairly good at sticking to them selves, and so a kind of automatic conflict avoidance, simply by being self-limiting to the resources “in the gaps” between the actively used resources of others. Much of the network of life seems organized that way, and wouldn’t be if resource control was only a matter of population pressure, or so the debate seems to have it.

The mathematical problem I run into is the difference between modeling sustainability either as a task of maximizing our tolerable pressure on the environment, or the opposite, maximizing our freedom from conflict with the environment. The scientists who make money selling sustainable development models do the former, so their sponsors can make more money, the naturalists the latter.

What happens is the definitions of “tolerable” move dynamically with the money… as occurred with the Bruntland Commission definition of sustainability… In that case you can trace the history and find how “absolute sustainability” turned into “relative sustainability” turned into “decoupling” which became, “a rate of increasing profits faster than measurable externalities… “, i.e. = “absolute unsustainability”. (see #1 Sust Issue Today – and research notes on decoupling)

How do we turn that back around I wonder.


On Oct 9, 12:46 pm, “John Russell” wrote:
> Phil; in nature every species’ expansion is self-limiting. It’s been
> observed that — for instance — barn owls increase in number in line with
> an increase in rodent numbers. As the increase in barn owls means that the
> number of rodents they feed on is reduced, their falling food supply then
> limits the number of barn owls and the population crashes — which then
> allows the rodents to start increasing their numbers again.
> These cycles of population growth and crash are very common in nature.
> They’re particularly easy to observe in closed systems like the aquatic life
> in ponds and lakes. Every manager of a sport fishing lake knows the amount
> of intervention needed to ensure a steady supply of the right sort and size
> of fish to meet the needs of their angling clientele.
> The humans species was once subject to similar cycles dictated by the
> availability of food and viral epidemics. Now we’ve managed to insulate
> ourselves to some degree from nature and have come to the smug conclusion
> that we’re masters of the universe. Unfortunately I think we don’t have the
> control we like to imagine we have and when the crash comes it will hurt the
> species as a whole a lot harder than most realise.
> Of course, in theory we have the brains to think out the consequence of our
> actions. Unfortunately cognitive dissonance tends to mean that people making
> hay while the sun shines do not allow their imagination to warn them of the
> inevitable outcome of uncontrolled growth. That’s left to people like you me
> and most of the others on this site.
> Best wishes,
> JR


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