Sketches in the Ruins of My Mind

graphic: Sketches in the Ruins of my Mind.

Full or Empty?

Dateline: 6 August 2002
Author: Johnny <>

Below is an email I sent in response to the publication of "Sustainable development is a hoax: we cannot have it all." No prizes for inferring that whingeing environmentalists get my goat. Fools and/or liars the lot of them. I say they should be dumped naked in the middle of the Amazon rain forest and left to fend for themselves. I agree that "sustainable development" is a hoax but I think we can have it all. Whose side are you on?

Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 13:49:35 +0100 (BST)
To: Jeremy Seabrook <>
Cc: Guardian Letters Page <>
Subject: "Guardian" article re "Sustainable Development"

The problem with your article "Unlimited desire is bound to destroy a world of limited resources" is that you fall into the trap of all Marxism-oriented "environmental" commentators: that you see the Earth as a closed system. In the most trivial sense this is plainly not true since the Earth's ecosystem fundamentally relies largely on the energy captured from the Sun of which it currently only captures a tiny fraction. But in a larger sense human technology gives us the possibility for expanding the resource base available for both humanity and the ecosystem in general. For practical purposes, given adequate technology and engineering, the resources available from the Sun in particular and the Solar System in general are vastly in excess of any conceivable need that the human race or the planet might have into the very far future. And by then hopefully we'll be out amongst the stars in any case (having abandoned the Earth to the meek).

I presume you might claim that there are limits to technology, real or potential, that perforce prevent this point of view being valid. I believe that's simply a failure of conception. We must believe it is possible to make it happen: the future isn't changed by us it is made by us, if you catch my meaning. That, of course, doesn't mean you can't perceive some kind of disparity of wealth distribution you find objectionable on some grounds or another but that is actually a separate issue except in so far as it has functional effects on the development and deployment of technology and engineering and the utilisation of human potential. The more educated people there are in technologically advanced communities which have access to advanced science and engineering the more wealth and resources there will be in general. The only resource limits in the medium to long term are artificially (politically) imposed limits. The strictures desired to be imposed by environmentalism and "justice politics" impose opportunity costs that could easily be the cause of the very ecological/technological collapse such people assert they are attempting to avert.

As far as I can see it's environmentalists with their counsel of despair that are holding us back from a brighter, unlimited, future. I on the other hand am hopeful that history will show that environmentalists are very wrong. Whether the politicians of various stripes (of which I include environmentalist movements) and their self-interest will make a liar of me is the only thing I'm worried about -- well that and the projected decline in the world human population.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
-- H.L. Mencken

John Pate <>
Edinburgh, Scotland (home PC)