A very brief thought

Parked here for later use (I have to write and record a half-hour radio programme on children’s happiness by Wednesday afternoon; it will be Thursday evening’s “Analysis”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/analysis/default.stm for anyone who is interested.)

There are two huge problems facing Europe, and the West generally. One is the threat of “Islam” — not, that is to say, the religion so much as the appearance of an unemployed, unemployable, underclass, racially or socially distinct from the rest of us, and hostile. The other is climate change.

The third problem is that the cure for each threatens to make the other worse.

The only way to absorb and integrate all these people is through economic growth. Useful, productive employment is the motor from which all else is driven. But it is precisely this growth which makes worse the problem of global warming, something which will in the end make economic contraction inevitable. I suspect that a sustainable society will have a lot less paid employment — or a very much smaller population. We know that our present model of exploiting the earth is unsustainable.

I suspect that the answer will involve the rediscovery of nation states, and a fresh interest in war as a means of policy.

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2 Responses to A very brief thought

  1. Rupert says:

    If we can encourage two current trends – the deep desire among the young to be famous for doing nothing, and the deep desire among the famous to launch themselves into space – then we may find the problem self-limiting. There are certain environmental issues with spaceflight, but once we get those nanotubes spun there’ll be room for everyone on the Space Elevator.

    And talking of nanotechnology among the underclass, I was deeply gratified to hear You and Yours do a piece on graphene, a nanotech substance so new and weird I have yet to understand a tenth of the underlying physics. Ballistic conduction – like superconductivity, which we still don’t understand, except it isn’t – is just one part of it. I have the paper from Nature which sparked the current coverage, and I can usually decode those to the point where I can phone up the authors and ask questions that aren’t entirely useless: this one remains thoroughly opaque. You and Yours, alas, was not much help.

    R

  2. Robert Nowell says:

    I do not know if there is any answer to this dilemma, which is similar to the one that struck me when I first started getting interested in the whole environmental question in 1970. (I was vaguely thinking of exploring the subject in Herder Correspondence, which I was editing at the time, had not our German owners decided to close the whole thing down – and not just us but Burns and Oates in London and Herder in New York – making us all redundant long before it became fashionable.) Later when I read the Blueprint for Survival, the manifesto produced by the magazine The Ecologist (1972 – I only got round to reading it in 1975), I concluded that the only way one could push through the kind of programme they thought necessary for human survival was by means of a Fascist dictatorship – not at all an appealing idea to someone born in 1931.

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