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Optimist, pessimist – or realist?

I have not always been an optimist, but serendipity has intervened so often in my life, that I now see helpful outcomes as more likely than less favourable ones – at least, most of the time!

I try to avoid pessimistic thoughts because that way lies depression and damage to mental health – which is currently far too common for many who have not experienced good fortune at any stage in their lives.

Politically, I guess I am a progressive who sees social justice, and active efforts to reduce inequality, as essential goals, ones which do not appear to be embraced with any conviction by our major political parties!

But I see ideology as a serious enemy to progress – and progress is not necessarily achieved through continuous growth.

Human beings are the only animals where perpetual population growth is an expected outcome – with no thought for what that means in the context of limited resources.

If we were to stabilise population growth, which could now be done humanely, without wars and pandemics, we would reduce the pressure for continual growth.

‘Growing the economy’ has been the political mantra for too long, and we are achieving that growth through creating more and more waste and pollution, exploiting less developed countries to provide what verges on slave labour, and generally guaranteeing that future generations will be less and less likely to have a life worth living!

When I graduated with a maths degree in the UK in 1957, there was a high demand for maths and science graduates to go into secondary teaching, to raise the standards – this being the time of the space race.

Nothing has changed. Skills in STEM subjects are still in short supply, and those who have those skills are not attracted into a profession which undervalues teachers – just like it undervalues all caring professions.

It has been an eye opener to see a Coalition government actively rely on specialist advice from the medical sciences in planning a path through COVID-19. Doubly surprising, because the almost total lack of understanding of any branch of science (politics and economics are not sciences!) among our politicians, has resulted in their dismissive response to any suggestion that they listen to scientific advice.

OK – almost all of us come from a background where doctors have been held in high regard because of their power of controlling life or death situations.

But our climate scientists are in exactly the same situation, knowing that we are on the path to self-destruction, just as much as any drug addict or diabetic who refuses to follow medical advice.

I am not a psychologist, so cannot begin to even hazard a guess as to why our ideological Coalition government is so addicted to promoting fossil fuels as the continuing preferred source of energy.

The growing consensus is that we are fast running out of time to make serious steps to cease using fossil fuels beyond the essential – as in making steel – and advances in the development and use of renewable energy make this a realistic goal.

Pessimism starts creeping in when I am forced to realise that this is most unlikely to happen under the current Coalition government and we are stuck with them for the best – or worst – part of another two years.

If you, or close relatives, have children, grandchildren, great grandchildren – surely you want them to have the best lives possible?

The pandemic has disastrously affected our economy, and there will be slow progress in recovering, with so many now unemployed and so many jobs no longer available.

But this is where we cannot afford to look back and seek to return to ‘normal’, because the old ‘normal’, with a sluggish economy and increasing inequality, was dooming our kids’ futures, anyway.

Experts are telling us that now is the time for a massive move towards developing and refining all forms of renewable energy, creating job opportunities in the process.

I am pessimistic that Coalition policies will lead us in this direction – so we have got to make it possible – through civil disobedience, if necessary (let’s not go as far as the French Revolution).

Black Lives Matter is an issue we should support, if we have a moral bone in our bodies. That ties in with working our butts off to reduce inequality, whether in wealth or related to ethnicity.

We do not deserve to seek a comfortable life if we can only do do at a cost to the lives of others.

Morality is not a religious issue. It is the foundation stone of a viable society. In fact the apparent absence of morality in many who claim to follow some religion or cult is seriously high.

We elect governments to develop policies to support our lives – for all of us, not a select few.

If they cannot do this effectively, it is up to us to make them!

That is realism!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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4 comments

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  1. Andrew Smith

    Agree with much but not the undefined population and growth factors which have been promoted as negatives since Malthus through to the present. Bricker & Ibbitson in ‘Empty Planet’ are not overly optimistic due to their prediction of plummeting population while Rosling et al. are quite optimistic about humanity’s future, with population peaking mid century while becoming older and browner.

    In my opinion (contrived) negative focus is a right wing libertarian trap to deflect attention away from the 1% and their growth while a minority of global population is responsible for most consumption and emissions growth, with global fertility dropping below replacement.

    Models such as the Meadows’ ‘limits to growth’, Daly’s ‘steady state economy’ and Ehrlich’s ‘population bomb’ (and ZPG with John Tanton) were promoted by the fossil fuel and related corporates’ Club of Rome, as liberal and environmental. Limits to growth ‘science’ was debunked by a University of Sussex research team round the same time as outlined in ‘From Malthus to the Club of Rome and Back: Problems of Limits to Growth’, By Paul Neurath.

    For a good history and description of the related pitfalls in the Australian context see Goodfellow’s, ‘Green Anti-Immigration Arguments Are A Cover For Right Wing Populism’ in Green Agenda, 2019 (two brief excerpts follow):

    ‘The environmental rhetoric of the population debate might be alluring to progressives. Who would argue against clean air and clean water? Who wouldn’t agree that the current paradigm of growth is unsustainable? The problem is that an analysis based solely in population is superficial, creating solutions that end up marrying with the worst parts of Australian politics – far-right populism. If unchecked environmentalists focused solely on population threaten to be co-opted and driving a wedge in the environmental movement – because on the surface the arguments sound appealing….

    …… There is a moral need to reject a simplistic notion of the reduction of population as a panacea for planning, environmental and social issues. There is a need to create an atmosphere where the issue of population cannot be hijacked by right-wing populists, which it is at the moment. We must strongly guard against being drawn into a neo-white Australia movement, rejecting any efforts by nativists to “seduce environmentalists to join their cause for purely strategic reasons”.’

    https://greenagenda.org.au/2019/02/right-wing-populism-cover/

    I understand that the above can show how, the radical right libertarian ideology in the ‘Anglosphere’ has been joined at the hip with the eugenics movement via populism and scary headlines.

  2. RosemaryJ36

    Ansrew Smith – and the other issues, including the elephant in the room, climate change?

  3. Andrew Smith

    Of course, and I did not explain fully the very long game being played.

    Another reason for the constant promotion of ‘sustainable population’ and calls for immigration restrictions are not simply populist and nativist, but deflect from meaningful policies round carbon emissions, environment policy, renewables, fossil fuels and auto sector e.g. population growth causes traffic congestion etc. etc.

    It’s no coincidence that ZPG Zero Population Growth with Paul Ehrlich, John Tanton and Paul Watson (of Sea Shepherd fame) was sponsored by Rockefeller Bros. (Standard Oil/Exxon), Ford and Carnegie (steel) Foundations.

    Further, the Club of Rome promoting Ehrlich, population control, ‘limits to growth’ and Herman Daly’s ‘steady-state economy’ (closed national economies, zero growth, no multilateral trade agreements or blocs like the EU, no movement of people etc. aka Trump policies); was sponsored by Fiat or Agnelli family, VW and hosted on the Rockefeller estate.

    Very clever long game PR messaging and astroturfing for the 1% which mirrors and continues on via the radical right libertarianism economics and populist eugenics by Koch’s networks via think tanks (especially ALEC and coopting evangelical Christian nationalists), ownership of the GOP, climate science denialism, low taxes/small govt. and compliant media. (explained in detail by MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’ and Mayer’s ‘Dark Money’, resulting in Brexit, Trump and our local knock off).

    In Australia we see the same influence via (Koch’s Atlas Network member) IPA, owned LNP MPs, pollsters, fossil fuel etc. lobbyists and media dominated by ‘political parties’ NewsCorp and 9Fairfax……. where do we go from here?

    Maybe we finally see the diversity of our population, society and urban electorates represented in politics, media and elites vs like the US, mostly ‘pale and male’ by a minority.

  4. andy56

    “…… There is a moral need to reject a simplistic notion of the reduction of population as a panacea for planning, environmental and social issues. There is a need to create an atmosphere where the issue of population cannot be hijacked by right-wing populists,”

    couldnt agree more Andrew, and i dont need to know about the machinations in the background to come to this conclusion. But it helps to know who to target for deserved abuse.

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