Monday, August 19, 2013

The predicament -and hope- of Mankind

Welcome back my faithful readers =) Bienvenidos de regreso mis cuatro lectores =).

Over the summer I happened to read a series of books that nicely complement each other into an either tragic or hopeful sequence.

In 1972, it was published the famous report: “The limits to growth: a report to the Club of Rome project on The Predicament of Mankind”. It described World3, the name of a [Systems Dynamics] model of the planet and humanity. The authors used the model to analyze several possible future scenarios for the Earth and its inhabitants up to 2100. Some of these scenarios ended in a planetary collapse due to pretended infinite growth in a finite planet;  some were hopeful but required difficult changes to world politics and institutions. I borrow part of the sub-title of that book for a series of essays that partly deal with this topic: the predicament of Mankind, including some dashes of hope...

I will start with Edgar Morin, a notable French philosopher that has published more than 30 books  and keeps working at his 95 years of age. One of these books is Terre-Patrie, co-authored by Anne Brigitte Kern and translated into English as Homeland Earth. Morin says we are now in the Planetary Iron Age: recognizing that we live in a small planet, we are still very far for realizing our full potential. I will initially cover just the first part of the book, that ends with a description of the multiple planetary crisis.

Then I will describe briefly The Limits of Growth and three follow-up books by the same authors that have kept using variations of World3 in order to explain our complex situation and predict the future. The latest book, just titled “2052”, basically claims that humanity’s decision systems mostly based on the market an on variations of Democracy as it is practiced today, will not act fast enough to prevent dangerous levels of global warming and the (surprising to some) closely related problem of world poverty, bringing us to the brink of collapse by that year, 2052, and to a world much less desirable than it could have been. The book ends with a plea to the readers to act in order to make that forecast wrong and makes several suggestions. These become the first dash of hope.

I will then review Rational Ecology by Dryzek, who describes in more detail humanity’s decision systems, including not only democracy and the market but also authoritarian regimes, the law, cultural institutions.... Dryzek finds all of them inadequate or even damaging to solve ecological problems, yet offers another dash of hope at the end of the book...

I will also review El humanicidio (or the suicide of Humanity), that strongly claims for an extension of Ethics towards a planetary ethics because no problem, says author Michel Lacroix, is more important that the possible death of Humanity.

I will then return to the rest of Terre-Patrie by Morin and fully embrace his systemic, complex-thinking thought for my final dash of hope. Oh one more: Chemin de l’espérance or The Path to Hope by Stephane Hessel and Morin delineates what must be done to save us. It involves some radical modifications of Finance Capitalism, Economics, Politics and Democracy that are needed... ya! now!.

It seems that none of these authors, including me, wants to paint a fully depressing picture. Hope, says czech ex-president Vaclav Havel, “is as important as life itself. Without Hope, there can be no progress”, cited by J. Randers,, the author of 2052.

So on with the first part of Homeland Earth in next essays. Thanks for reading... Later on I will re-publish all the essays translated into Spanish.