The Norman Transcript

June 24, 2012

Seek true sustainability over growth


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

My opinion is that the current global recession will not end until human societies change.  Very difficult, given the nature of political systems and the human condition. 

Global human population tripled during the 20th century and is currently near 7 billion.  Human population diminishes the planetary resource base, increases demand and prices, and is a cause of the present global recession.  Nevertheless, global human population is presently increasing by about 80 million annually. Norman and the United States as a whole have contributed.  The U.S. human population quadrupled during the 20th century and continues to increase today.  Norman’s population was about 27,000 in 1950, 52,000 in 1970, 97,000 in 2000, and was 111,000 in 2010. 

None of this population increase seems enough for Chambers of Commerce in Norman, in Oklahoma, and across our land.  In The Norman Transcript on June 19th, John Woods, current chair of the Norman C of C, called for us to “build a community of economic success, strong quality of life amenities that attract the next generation of young professionals and families to help fund the critical components of our city that we all care about.  We need to begin a dialogue...”   This letter is an effort to contribute to that dialogue.  My view is that we already have the above listed attributes in Norman and that CofCs call for more growth is detrimental.

One of our City Councilors recently said to me, “If you don’t grow, you rot.”  This reminds of another local issue, NEDA, which is treated here only by implication. In my opinion, the City Councilor’s opinion is true only for cultural growth.  Human numbers and society are past the point that physical growth becomes detrimental.  Furthermore, all forms of physical growth are not sustainable, though often so-called.  Malthus spoke more than a century ago to an imbalance between population growth and food supply, an imbalance detrimental to human welfare.  Forty-five years ago, Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb, and Hardin published a collection of numerous papers with dire predictions. These authors were not mistaken, but they were premature because they did not and could not anticipate effects of burgeoning technology, which has greatly facilitated extraction of resources.

Technology does not contradict science; technology is science in application.  The increased rate of resource extraction and still rising human populations are grave threats to future human welfare.  But, what can we do?  What should we do?

One action that should be helpful would be for CofCs to renounce population growth as an appropriate objective and to devote their intelligence and efforts to formulation of a healthful alternate paradigm of true sustainability.

Edwin Kessler

Norman, Oklahoma