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Localism vs Globalism: Two World Views Collide

Michael McCarthy, Independent/UK
Stop economic growth in its tracks, start living locally, at a slower pace, and share more – that was the remarkable demand yesterday at the beginning of the Sustainable Planet Forum, a three-day international conference on environmental issues in the French city of Lyon, which The Independent is co-sponsoring.

In the radical corner was Paul Ariès, one of France’s more colourful political figures, an anti-globalization campaigner who edits a magazine entitled Le Sarkophage, which is a French pun on the word for coffin and the name of the President of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy. (You can guess the content.)

In the Conservative corner was Peter Ainsworth, the former shadow Environment Secretary who left Parliament at the last election after 18 years as the MP for East Surrey. He is active on numerous environmental issues and has long been seen by environmentalists in Britain as the epitome of a Green Tory.

Immediately after the forum’s opening ceremony, they clashed in the main auditorium of the Lyon Opera House before an audience of nearly 1,000 intent listeners, many of them young.

… Mr Ariès responded that he wasn’t looking to Coca-Cola to save the planet – his best line, which drew laughter and applause – but Mr Ainsworth insisted that it was only new technological advances ("game-changers" he called them) which would set growth on a different path. "You want to save the planet with gadgets!" cried a woman in the audience. "The electric car is not a gadget," Mr Ainsworth said.

His finished by telling Mr Ariès that the ultimate problem with his degrowth idea was political. "No democratic politician anywhere in the world will embrace it," he said. "Call that cowardice, or call it realism." And turning to the audience: "You choose."
(25 September 2010)
Previous article at the Independent on the conference: Can the world live with the pace of economic growth? Time to find out


MarketWatch: The economy can’t grow forever

Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
Commentary: The whole planet must live within its means

Those of us who believe that the economy should serve us instead of the other way around are conflicted.

We know that the only way to end unemployment at home and poverty around the world is to make the economy grow faster. But we also know that nothing can grow forever, that the faster the global economy grows, the sooner we’ll run out of essential resources, including fossil fuels, water, arable land, healthy ecosystems and moderate climate.

Economists and politicians can’t admit it, but the laws of physics apply, no matter what the latest polls tell us. The Earth has finite resources that will someday limit our economic growth.

The Earth cannot forever support 7 billion people consuming as much as Americans consume. And yet we’ve staked our future — individually, nationally, and maybe even as a species — on that impossible dream.

Some people are in denial. They believe that the Earth’s resources are limitless and that a bean stalk can grow to the sky. Or perhaps they know deep in their heart that we are on the road to an environmental and economic catastrophe, one that they think they alone will survive through wits, gold, and guns.

Others believe fervently that technology will bail us out yet again, that clever primates will always find a new tool that will help us extract ever more stuff from the planet. They laugh at the warnings of the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, who warned in the 19th century that the population would inevitably outgrow the food supply, leading to periodic mass death due to wars, famines and plagues.
(24 September 2010)
Recommended by EB contributor "Renfield", and by Post Carbon Institute. Renfield writes:
Some of the unfortunate responses to this commentary bring into stark relief the challenges we face. Case in point:

"Any time I read these articles about over-population and too many people.. yada yada …from so called experts. I ask them …. ‘if a reduced population is the solution then why don’t you volunteer to solve it. Off yourself. I won’t miss you."

A Case for Singletasking: The One-Task-At-a-Time Method

Jason Fitzpatrick, Lifehacker
…It’s easy to feel like you’re being constantly pulled in multiple directions. Fractured attention, endless to-do lists, and an overwhelming sense that everything important was due twenty minutes ago are practically the uniform of the modern workplace. If that frazzled view of work sounds a bit too much like your work day, it may be time to reconsider how you’re working, take back your focus from the multitude of distractions around you, and start focusing on the work that matters and will make a difference in your career and life.

… the power of multitasking is a myth. Human beings are, essentially, single-core processors. We can’t effectively check our email, listen to someone asking us for feedback on a project, and take notes simultaneously. We can do it, sure, everything suffers.

… Singletasking forces you to sustain your focus and work through complex problems. If you’re always jumping from email to IM to the web and then back through your list of workplace distractions, then you’re not taking the time to focus on problems that require persistent and complex thought.

Your stress levels will fall. Multitasking is stressful. The more you attempt to do things in parallel, the more energy you have to invest just in tracking your tasks and keep things straight.

… Use the minimal tools necessary to effectively do your work. You can find inspiration for this idea in a an unusual place—the Amish. Most people assume the Amish shun technology. On closer inspection, however, the Amish don’t shun technology; they just operate from the default stance of "No.". They only accept new things when those new things seem to be worth the hassle.
(24 September 2010)