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Leadership in action: when resource constraints meet conspicuous consumption, we just ignore the problem

17 September 2010

Summary:  Rising population, finite resources.  Don Vandergriff asks if we have the creativity and wisdom to cope with these two colliding trends? 

“In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestous seasons, they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.”
— John Maynard Keynes in A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923)

I don’t understand why we don’t confront these issues head on? Is that we suffer from hubris? Or, is it people are just so scared, they ignore the data? 

What pisses me off about lack of leadership on these issues, and our own arrogant ignoring the signs is that in no time in human history have we possessed the information and resources to fix problems before they get too bad. The problem is hubris, stupidity and organized religions, all of them. 

My fellow citizens have been so conditioned by the fact that they can always have what they want if they have the money or credit to get it, but particularly our basic needs. They have come to accept the fact, that someone else will always take care of it. 

Governments have conditioned their people that they will take care of it, or technology will eventually solve the problem.

Organized religion (remember, I love and believe in God, and pray every night, but I am a realist) have allowed people to discard their real world responsibilities and continue to live in the past, having too many children and living a myth about how problems will be solved. Organized religions have also been behind most wars, as they are today. 

Instead of unifying to fix our problems so people can live in peace and prosperity, we remain at constant war over dwindling resources behind the cloak that someone’s else’s religious fervor is trying to take us over and disrupt our ways of lives. When in fact, it is the fight over resources as populations grow because no one, except a very small number of economists and realists, wants to tackle that issue.  Everyone else just accepts it as something natural and the rights of everyone to have as large families as they want, while there are less and less resources to meet their demands.

How to fix it?

  1. Here address the illegal immigration problem, and stop being a spillover pond for the world’s busting dams. We have to be harsh, and start supporting family planning everywhere. Close our borders and start fixing our problems here. This is not the 1800s.
  2. Provide tax credits to two or one child families. No tax credits for over two children.
  3. No more money for highways, roads or cars. Start investing in mass transit, and start rebuilding our railroads.
  4. Double our investments in alternative energy.
  5. Start encouraging people to leave the suburbs and move back to cities. 
  6. Start giving tax credits and government loans to encourage small local farming. As gasoline will go back up soon, our dependency on the large corporate farms in the midwest will threaten the east and west coasts with severe food shortages due to the inability to transport it thousands of miles.
  7. Get out of all of our foreign ventures, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, start focusing on our problems with our southern border, Mexico.

Of course, these measures take moral courage and leadership to implement.

For more about this topic

See “Surviving the Coming Scarcity” at the International Relations and Security Network (ISN – subscription only):

The world appears to be in the midst of transitioning from a planet of relative surplus to one of scarcity. This week the ISN examines what happens when ever-more acute resource limitations meet unsustainable consumption patterns.  This Special Report contains the following content, easily navigated along the tab structure above:

  • An Analysis by Vivian Brailey Fritschi about what happens when ever-more acute resource constraints collide with the entrance of new, insatiable consumers.
  • A Podcast interview with Stefan Giljum, from the Sustainable Europe Research Institute, on the unique challenge of non-renewable resources running out.
  • Security Watch articles about resource conflicts from Africa to the Middle East.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the Institut für Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatung on ‘The Geopolitical Dimension of Resource Scarcity’.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of UN Security Council Resolutions on natural resource depletion as a threat to international peace and security.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the Oxford Research Group’s Sustainable Security website, which provides the latest news, comment, analysis and research relating to threats to global security and sustainable responses to those threats.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Global Footprint Network, an international think tank working to advance sustainability through use of the ecological footprint, a resource accounting tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use and who uses what.

For more information about scarce resources

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