After the Blueprint for Survival issue of The Ecologist there was considerable discussion across all media (see article Blueprint before and after). The Ecologist itself published many responses over the subsequent issues. We have collected them here as a single (long) article to save trawling through 15 months worth of The Ecologist. We have also included some longer editorial articles responding to some negative reactions. These reactions appeared in other places which we have not been able to source, but you get a flavour of their arguments from reading the Ecologist's responses.
They are arranged in date of publication order. The list of authors below links to the relevant part of this article.
NB The OCR process which produced the original PDF files, and reformatting from fixed width newspaper style column may have introduced typographical and spelling errors - these are generally not in the original printed article. Page numbers reflect the pagination of the pdf file, not the issue page numbers which exclude the front cover and inside of the front cover. Subtract 2 to get the page number in the printed copy.
- Ecologist March 1972
- Ecologist April 1972
- Ecologist May 1972
- Ecologist July 1972 (the June issue was a special on the Stockholm Conference)
- Ecologist September 1972
...more to come
Don Quixote, who subconsciously must have known his real strength, took care to combat windmills rather than giants, and sheep instead of armies. Quixote like, M r John Maddox* demolishes arguments that either do not exist or are rendered flimsy by his description of them, and hardly attempts those on which the authors of A Blueprint for Survival rest their case. Thus he tilts at those who fear that "the human race will breed itself to extinction", rather than at those who see that the growing discrepancy between human numbers and the sustainable food supply must inevitably lead to serious famines unless it is checked and reversed. And he recasts in highly simplistic terms fears of ecological disruption and resource depletion, so that he can denounce such oversimplification as a public disservice!
"Fears of famine", writes M r Maddox, "depend on the assumption that the green revolution is a nine day wonder." Nonsense! Our fears of famine depend on the indisputable evidence that many people in Africa, Latin America, and the Far East, and some in the Near East, are already malnourished, that food production in the non-industrial world as a whole has barely kept abreast of population growth, that the opening up of new land for cultivation will not be possible for much longer as all the good land is now being farmed, and that at present rates of expansion none of the marginal land that is left will be unfarmed by 1985. A l l of these statements are supported by recent FAO documents, indeed FAO has stated that some land had been so overused that it must be taken out of production. For these reasons, FAO is relying on heavy intensification—on the introduction of the new high-response hybrids of wheat and rice, which form the guts of the green revolution. Nobody doubts the potential of these hybrids. They are highly responsive to massive applications of water and inorganic fertilisers, as their success in Pakistan and Mexico demonstrates — though Dr Norman Borlaug, proud "father of the green revolution", himself describes the claim implicit in its title as premature and over-optimistic. If we in the industrial world are willing to help pay for the immensely increased demand for pesticides and fertilisers (up to 27 times present ones) needed to realise this potential (and FAO reports no sign of this), and if there is enough water avail able in the right places, then we may expect immense increases in yields.
Unfortunately, it seems that such increases can be bought only at the expense of long-term fertility. The likelihood of the enormous applications of pesticides and fertilisers oversimplifying and disrupting the highly fragile tropical ecosystems is too great for M r Maddox to ignore, or to dismiss with irrelevant references to successful intensification in temperate lands. I n doing so, he chooses to disregard both the great differences between the two regions (such as the very rapid laterisation which can and does occur in the tropics)—and the clear evidence of diminishing returns from agricultural technology, throughout the world.
The green revolution may well enable us to keep up with population growth for a short period, but for a rather longer period it is likely to make feeding those who are left that much more difficult. Mr. Maddox of course, does not believe that overpopulation is a problem, whether at home or abroad. He points to Britain's modest growth rate, but forgets that she relies on imports for half her food and that this proportion is unlikely to be significantly reduced. Thirty million is probably the most we can feed from sustainable agricultural methods. What grounds for confidence are there that we will be able to continue importing half our food, when global demand must double just to maintain the status quo (one of widespread malnutrition as it is)? And even if, by virtue of our superior economic position, we manage to beat the non-industrial countries to the failing bread-baskets of the world (besides continuing to buy theii sorely needed protein to fatten our factory-farm animals), how can we possibly justify doing so ?
As for world population, M r Maddox comforts himself with the trite observation that much of the growth is attributable to increased life-expectancy, and a reminder that in a number of non- industrial countries birth-rates are falling. He ignores the much more significant fact that many countries (e.g. Kenya, with 44 per cent of its population under 15) have populations so structured that even i f the replacement-sized family is achieved in the industrial world by 2000 and in the non-industrial world by 2040, the world's population will stabilise at nearly 15.5 billion about a century hence—or well over four times the present size. Stabilisation, however, does not appear to be the aim of ostriches, who hope instead for a time when all countries will have industrialised to a level close to that of Britain today, by when, they conclude, the present global average growth rate of 2 per cent a year will have dropped to Britain's 0.5 per cent a year. Yet assuming this were possible, and that it were achieved by the time world population had reached 10 billion (say 2050), the world would still have to provide for an extra 50 million people (a new Britain) each year.
Are there enough raw materials for 10 billion people, all consuming as much as we do today? I am not thinking of energy resources (the Blueprint for Survival concedes the possibility of unlimited energy—until such time as thermal and other pollution cause intractable difficulties), but of metals. If consumption rates continue to grow as they are, present reserves of all but a few metals will be exhausted within 50 years. Of course there will be new discoveries and advances in mining technology, but reserves are finite, and these can provide us with only a limited stay of execution.
The graven image of the ostrich is price economics, but high prices will merely encourage synthetics and substitution, not conjure up more minerals, and these will in no sense solve the problem, since they can be made only from materials which themselves are finite and in short supply. Of what comfort will high prices be, when the only metals left are those already in circulation or in the sea or ordinary rock? The ratio of waste to useful metal in granite, for example, is 2,000 : 1, and I have yet to read of any sensible suggestion for disposing of these wastes without seriously disrupting ecosystems. One day soon, the non-industrial countries will appreciate that while their drive for reasonable development is presently retarded by the low prices they receive for their raw materials, it will be utterly thwarted when all other materials become so expensive that only the rich industrial minority can afford them.
Mr Maddox is of course perfectly right to scoff at those who fear that DDT "might eventually contaminate the whole environment"—for it already does so. To the extent that D D T residues now appear in the lipids of most organisms, they may be described as having a world-wide distribution; and as Woodwell, Craig, and Johnson have pointed out, residues in the California mackerel, the penguin, the crab-eater seal of the Antarctic, and oceanic birds such as shearwaters and the Bermuda petrel, must be the result of circulation patterns which are not local but global. They conclude that there is now more than enough D D T circulating in the biosphere to bring about the extinction of such animals, it being merely a matter of luck that it has not done so.
Besides luck, M r Maddox puts his trust in the "vast scale of the environment", forgetting that pollutants are not distributed evenly, but instead are taken up in different cycles and concentrated by different organisms, so that local concentrations can have near- global effects. For example, estuaries are the spawning grounds of very many fish and shellfish and form the base of the food-chain of some 60 per cent of our entire marine harvest. Should they be damaged by concentrations of pollutants, we may expect a substantial drop in productivity.
Another important concept which appears to have escaped M r Maddox is that of the optimum. Whatever the system there must be an optimum value for every variable. There may be a tolerance margin either way, but basically if there is too much or too little of a given variable, the system will no longer function properly. To say as Mr Maddox does that it will take thousands of years to double the amount of a given pollutant already in the oceans is to beg the question. I t assumes we know the optimum level of that chemical, how great its tolerance margins are, and what will happen when they are exceeded. Unfortunately, we do not have this information for the greater part of the half-a-million man- made chemicals in use today. Is it scientific, is it responsible, to trust to luck, or to excuse our acting in ignorance by pretending that there is no "evidence" or that a given pollutant is harmful—when there are ample theoretical grounds for assuming that at some point it will be? M r Maddox can accuse The Ecologist of being alarmist only by ignoring the real world and concentrating on a highly notional one, consisting of self- contained analytical units rather than an intricate network of systems, and with a simple-minded economic escape clause, just in case the biophysical principles on which it is run become too restrictive for comfort.
We depend for survival on the availability of certain raw materials and on the stability of a great many ecological processes. The continued increase of human numbers and per capita consumption means that inevitably we will exhaust the former and adopt practices which will disrupt the latter. Yet our particular socio-economic system appears to depend on expansion, or increased throughput; and while there are many short-term limited measures to which we can, and should, resort, these will only give us a breathing-space—which will be worthless, unless we use it to devise an alternative, sustainable socio-economic system. This, in its "Strategy for Change", A Blueprint for Survival has attempted to do. It is by no means a perfect document; indeed it is The Ecologist's aim to constantly improve it—to which end we are asking scientists and other academics, industrialists, trades unionists, and anyone else interested, to send in constructive criticisms. However, it has at least started a debate on what changes will be both humane and effective enough to avoid social or ecological catastrophe.
* Mr Maddox is editor of Nature, and this editorial, a modified version of which appeared in The Times of 23 2 72, is in reply to his editorial, "The Case Against Hysteria" and to an article by him in The Times.
I am glad that The Ecologist has published " A Blueprint for Survival", and hope that its message will be widely heeded, not only by individuals, but by local councils and the Government.
Having been interested in the Conservation of Nature and Wildlife for 60 years, having helped to establish National Parks both in East Africa and Britain, and having campaigned for population control for over half a century, I naturally find myself in agreement with your Blueprint and the conclusions to be drawn from it.
In those 60 years a great deal has been accomplished. Much wildlife, both plant and animals, and much glorious scenery have been saved for public enjoyment. Family planning and population control are now the concern of many governments and of the U . N . and its Agencies. Britain now has a Ministry of the Environment, and most western nations are taking steps to curb over-population.
Yet the situation is graver than ever, mainly because of the continued increase of the population.
Even in our little island, nearly half a million human beings are added every year. More people, more pollution, more cars, more sprawling cities, more congestion.
I hope that we shall take action, not merely against pollution, but against the unchecked increase in human numbers.
Instead of paying couples more for increased families, we should at least reduce family allowance for each child after the second. Or we could, as India has shown, reward people who allow themselves to be sterilised. Britain should formulate and implement a population policy, officially aiding Family Planning and advertising the dangers of further increase in numbers; the United Nations should do the same for the world, where higher rates ot increase in developing countries are widening the gap between their prosperity and that of the richer nations.
We should of course take further steps to prevent haphazard invasion of what is left of our unspoilt country side, by unregulated building, and should prohibit mining and other commercial activities in National Parks and areas designated as of outstanding beauty.
Above all we should, by all means at our command, make it clear to the inhabitants of this planet, that it is urgent to reduce the increase of population.
Julian Huxley, F.R.S.
I think the Blueprint for Survival is quite right to argue that we cannot sustain indefinitely a policy of growth, when growth is defined in the terms such as GNP as used at present; and that the alternative must be a social system which has built into it much more stability in the form of self-correcting mechanisms, both for the system as a whole itself and for its component sub systems. However, I want to emphasise that this should not be taken as a call for a simple return to nature, a lowering of the real standard of living and a regression to less sophisticated technology. To design and put into operation self-stabilising social and productive mechanisms will demand a deeper understanding, and a more sophisticated technology, than anything we have at present. The recycling of wastes is more demanding of intellectual and practical understanding than merely throwing them away. To control pests and improve crop yields by biological control, and to find a means of improvement of yield which co-operate with, rather than merely swamp, the natural ecosystem, is a more sophisticated job than merely to poison the pests and dump fertiliser indiscriminately over the cultivated surface.
Moreover, the standard of living should be measured in real terms, which take account of the major values of life, such as happy social relations; social security; leisure, and the means to enjoy it, such as education, sport and creative activities of many kinds. I t is clear that growth of these values can, and should, continue for many generations, even though in order to achieve this we may have to restrain the "growth", as it is assessed today in such crude indices as the GNP.
The real message of the Blueprint for Survival is not "back to a time which is simpler because it is more primitive and less sophisticated": it is rather "forward to a time which is simpler because it is more integrated and more sophisticated".
Professor C. H. Waddington, CBE, FRS,
Professor of Animal Genetics, University of Edinburgh.
It so happened that I have read the leader in Nature of January 14, The Case Against Hysteria before I read your Blueprint for Survival. Somewhat to my surprise, I could not detect in it any signs of hysteria. I t is a reasoned state ment of facts, of a goal whose desirability few people can dispute, and of a plan cautiously phased out over a hundred years, with provisions for learning from experience. I do not agree with all its recommendations and conclusions. I would not advocate a "power tax", because the increasing scarcity of high concentrates of certain rare materials will force us to use more energy for extraction, and with Alvin Weinberg I believe that atomic power plants need not be dangerous polluters. Instead of a "raw materials tax" I would rather give positive incentives for re-cycling. I con sider units of 500 people as much too small for the development of a high civilisation, I would prefer to see small towns, with all cultural amenities, numbering inhabitants of the order of 50,000. But these are small differences of opinion, matters of quiet discussion.
Why then the violent backlash, which deserves the adjective "hysterical" far more than your Blueprint? The attack against the environmentalist started, I think, with Anthony Crosland's article which accused them of elitism and con trasted them with the simple people who wanted "jobs, not beauty", andsunshine with fish and chips in Mal- lorca. Why the more recent insinuations against the Club of Rome, and the unconditional rejection, by the Estab lishments at both sides of the Atlantic, of the pioneer work of Jay Forrester and Dennis Meadows? I have said long ago that growth addiction was the creed of our times, but it was a surprise even to me that it had the intensity of a fanatical religion.
My advice to you is: do not respond to heated attacks with increased heat. I was very glad to see that Paul Ehrlich does not figure among your references; keep away from such doubtful allies. Let the discussion simmer down from the emotional to the intellectual level. Truth will win in the end.
Thank you for sending me your Blueprint for Survival. I like this even better on second reading.
The ecological analysis is most cogent and comprehensive; you have done a most useful job in bringing all this together. I full agree with your analysis of the self-exciting and therefore self-limiting, i f not self-destructive character of the governmental- entrepreneurial system and the economics which goes with it and supports its assumptions. I have some reservations on the social analysis. But my main criticism is that you seem to me unduly to mute, i f not to misread some of the political implications.
Obviously the policy includes every thing most hateful, at least in the short run, to government, business and trade unions—shrinking tax base, falling revenues, higher costs, shrinking markets, more work, lower wages, eroded differentials, lower GDP. The only cur rent "goal" in the programme is reduced unemployment, through the encouragement of labour-intensive industry. This is important and will become more so if, as I expect the present expansive policy comes to be recognised as incompatible with other than rising unemployment. But even your promise of lower unemployment looks like being realised more slowly than the corresponding costs.
So it won't be easy to get it accepted by both political parties, industry and the trade unions. But given that you do, I ask myself, among other questions—
1. How could you implement it without starting a major recession (and having abjured in advance most of our present controls, such as they are) ?
2. How, whilst implementing it, could we remain sufficiently competitive in international markets. (It would obviously be absurd to wait until everyone else has agreed, especially since many other countries can afford to wait much longer;
3. Would fiscal measures be enough to boost labour intensive industry quickly enough, and if not, what are the alternatives and supplements ?
There are answers of a sort to all these questions, though some of them would go best with Fidel Castro as prime minister and Dr Schacht at the Treasury—I choose two names for which I have high respect—and I won't begin to elaborate. But two points seem to me to be clear; these changes postulate an ideological revolution and a strong central government.
To bring this country from its present state to a stable state will, I think, require centralised control at least as strong and far more extended than in the last war. Then we had rationing of essentials, the virtual discontinuance of luxuries, direction of labour and extensive control of incomes, prices, wealth and land use. Some of these would be more, some less needed. But I see no chance that greater physical dispersal would mean greater devolution of political power. There would indeed be much for local government to do, even more than now. But the weight of decision and control at the centre would surely be much increased. (How else, for example, could your prosperous local communities support the starving ones or arrange to share limited and therefore probably licensed imports ?)
Such a society may be highly demcratic, highly participatory and socially well-knit. I t will only work—and only happen—if everyone is frightened by events and prospects into an enormously enhanced level of responsibility, which will be expressed both in accepting centralised control and in implementing it at grass roots level; as in the war farmers implemented agricultural policy and housewives implemented rationing. And for the same reason there may well be, as there was in the war, more humanity, mutual help at the personal level, social intercourse, community spirit and mutual trust, including trust of government and its officials. But I think the paper plays down the blood, sweat and tears to an extent which may make it (or its authors) sound a bit unrealistic.
I shall be glad to help in any way I can.
Yours sincerely, Sir Geoffrey Vickers,
Little Mead, Goring-on-Thames, Reading RG8 9ED.
Sir, Is the Big Brain Big Enough ?
Nature's editorial following the publication of Blueprint for Survival leads one to doubt whether the big brain is big enough. When a journal of the distinction of Nature uses sentences like the following, one wonders if it is attacking a case against its own better judgement.
" It is especially regrettable that declarations like these should myopically draw attention to the supposed difficulties of moderating population growth in Britain when there is no evidence worth speaking of to suggest that Britain is over- populated."
The Ecologist has argued its case with coolness and objectivity. Food resources of the United Kingdom can support a population of perhaps thirty million at most. Our present population is over fifty-five million and rising. decision and control at the centre What does the editor of Nature mean by over-population?
Yours faithfully, Professor J. Hawthdrn,
Department of Food Science, 131 Albion Street, Glasgow, C 1
"A Blueprint for Survival" must surely command the admiration and support of all conservationists. It seems presumptuous to criticise a scheme which could only be judged adequately by practical trial, but even so I would offer a few points for consideration.
(1) The "Blueprint" is diffident about the idea of introducing socio economic restraints to encourage limita- tion of family size. I find it hard to believe that we could do without them and feel that i f they were presented as rewards for success rather than as penalties for failure they would meet with little opposition and would surely be more effective than mere exhortation. After all, even the Daily Telegraph which is not notable for its enthusiasm about solving the overpopulation prob lem has admitted that it might be a good idea to re-examine family allow ances (Editorial, 7.1.72).
(2) A t the present time Family Planning Services are provided very largely by the part-time activities of several different types of doctor. The provision of a National Population Service on the scale you envisage would call for the establishment of a special body of medical auxiliaries, as it would be impossible to recruit enough medical manpower from the supply likely to be available without reducing the range of medical services which the public expects. This may be a particular illustration of a general problem in that, in any field, the personnel with the skill needed to implement the changes outlined in your scheme may already be fully occupied with what are regarded as essential activities.
(3) As you state, politicians are very difficult to convince of the urgent need of a scheme of this sort (though I am hopefully sending a copy of the "Blue print" to my M.P.) but we still have a great deal to do in the education of the public as a whole. A person born into an already overcrowded world seems to be able to accept the extra degree of overcrowding which will occur during his lifetime without protest or even comment. Are we really doing enough about the coming generation? I t seems to me that children who stay on into the V I form get plenty of teaching about ecology and quickly see the point of it all whereas those who leave earlier, and may need the lessons more, very often miss it altogether.
(4) There are signs that those who are interested in the problem of (Resource depletion + pollution) + overpopulation are becoming dissected into factions which tend to argue with one another as to the relative impor tance of the various factors in the prob lem. This is harmful because it wastes time better devoted to furthering the cause of conservation while providing ammunition for those who cry down its seriousness.
Finally, I must point out that, as a medical practitioner who is no more than an ordinary member of the British Medical Association, my views are entirely my own and I have no brief to speak for the opinions of that body. From the manner in which my name figured in the Statement of Support for the "Blueprint" your readers may have thought otherwise, but in fact the B.M.A. has not so far ventured any opinion on the subject of overpopula tion. With the growing interest of the medical profession in this subject (as shown by a letter published in the British Medical Journal on 8 January 1972) I feel it will not be long before it does.
I am, Yours etc. J.P. Lester, M.B., B.Chir., M.R.C.G.P.
The only sensible reaction to the Blueprint for Survival and the Limits For Growth is that their conclusions are obvious—painfully obvious. Anyone with average intelligence must realise that the world's population cannot in crease indefinitely, that one cannot produce an infinite amount of food from a finite amount of land, that there must be a limit to the availability of fuel and mineral resources, and that we cannot expect the delicate fabric of our environment to go on absorbing ever increasing quantities of toxic wastes. In other words, present trends simply cannot be maintained, and unfortunately these trends are part and parcel of progress to which our entire society is geared.
From these considerations, it is surely not unreasonable to conclude that "progress", as we conceive it, is not the right goal for society, and that it must rapidly be harnessed to a different goal—one that is achievable without totally destroying the ecosphere of which we are an inextricable part.
Why is it then that erudite and influential people like John Maddox, Barry Commoner and Kenneth Mellanby, refuse to face these obvious facts ? Why have most scientists been so slow in accepting them? Why is it also that they have failed so dismally to predict the sort of problems that it should have been quite evident we would have to face, i f our society were allowed to proceed for so long in so lunatic a direction at such breakneck speed?
This is all the more puzzling when we consider that the only possible goal of science is to organise information so as to predict change in the world around us.
How then can we explain it ? Perhaps scientists are just plain ignorant. This sounds unreasonable, as it is precisely the extent of their learning that is supposed to differentiate them from ordinary people. Nevertheless it is conceivable that they might have the wrong sort of learning, and, as it happens, the more one looks into it the more plausible does this hypothesis appear.
The World, after all, or more precisely, the ecosphere, developed as a single process, which explains why its parts are so closely interrelated, yet science which pupports to predict its behaviour is divided up into a host of watertight compartments. How can the expert, if his knowledge is confined to a single one of these compartments, hope to understand what is happening to the ecosphere as a whole ? How can he even understand what is happening to things in his own compartment since these are constantly being influenced by things occurring in other compartments about which he knows nothing? A l l he can predict are those changes occurring in the totally artificial conditions of his laboratory from which extraneous factors— mainly those about which he knows nothing at all—are methodically excluded.
One is not being facetious in affirming that the expert is totally unqualified to predict the behaviour of complex systems. His training is precisely the op posite to that which would enable him to do so. Interdisciplinary research is meant to get round this problem—but is such a thing really possible? Can any research be undertaken in common by people versed in disciplines that have developed in isolation from each other, and which make use of terminologies that are largely unrelated?
Yet there is another explanation. Man, it has been said, is not so much a rational animal as a rationalising one.
In other words his conclusions are reached subconsciously and are unrelated to the explanations he offers to justify them—which are basically those that provide the most self-flattering explanation. The mechanism is well described by Vance Packard in "The Hidden Persuaders". A perfect example of rationalisation is the behaviour of the unsuccessful tribal rain-maker. In trying to explain his failure, he will not incriminate the basic principles of rain- making. These are a priori truths, an essential part of his tribe's cultural heritage. Failure will be blamed on some technicality, such as the presence of someone who has violated a taboo. Professors Commoner and Mellanby are doing very much the same thing. They realise that our society is running into terrible trouble, but rather than attribute this to the obvious fact that it is moving in the wrong direction, they prefer to incriminate various technicalities: bad planning, not enough pollution control, people using detergents instead of soap, etc. To face realities would mean accepting that the basic values underlying our industrial society are wrong, and that it is their application that is causing all the trouble. This for various psychological reasons they are incapable of doing any more than the rainmaker can question the underlying values of his tribe's cultural pattern.
Another reason for the failure of modern science is its attachment to empiricist philosophy. The latter teaches that the world behaves in accordance with our perception of it, and that knowledge can only be built up by observation and induction. As a result, scientific enterprise involves accumulating data rather than making deductions from basic principles—which people did when rationalist philosophy held sway. This leads to the custom of carrying out endless dull and repetitive experiments, with little effort to make use of the results to establish general principles, for which, i f the deductive method is frowned upon, there is no requirement in any case.
When an attempt is made at interpretating data, the method used is usually very naive. I t consists mainly in establishing one-way cause-and-effect relationships on the basis of empirical correlations between situations observed to have occurred together in a particular sequence. Theory is rarely resorted to to explain these correlations. What is more, these situations usually constitute a pathetically small spatio-temporal sample. When the detractors of A Blueprint for Survival and the Limits to Growth assert that there is no evidence for the social and ecological calamities that threaten us, they are simply implying that they have not so far occurred—in fact, so far so good!
If most scientists have not only failed to predict the problems we are now facing but also refuse to interpret them correctly, it is partly out of human weakness, but also because modern scientific method simply does not pro vide a means for so doing.
The development of a new methodology for science, one that will permit the interpretation and prediction of change in complex systems is one of today's most urgent requirements.
The Blueprint contains some statements which are incorrect and some assertions which are not justified by the facts. But to dismiss the message of the Blueprint because of these shortcomings (deplorable though they are) would be mere pedantry. I f it deserves censure over style and content, it deserves, too, the respect due to sincerity and courage.
The dispute between those who support the Blueprint for Survival and those who reject it is a dispute about means, not ends. Everyone who has thought about the future of the environment agrees that exponential growth of population and consumption of non renewable materials (like fossil fuels and metals) cannot continue indefinitely; it follows that everyone agrees that growth of these two must flatten out.
The dispute is about two issues: (a) How will this flattening out occur? and (b) How can people be made aware that it is going to occur, and adjust their values accordingly?
Those who support the Blueprint believe that the phase of flattening out will be accompanied by a collapse of western society unless people deliberately and consciously revise their whole scale of values, abandon urban life, and re-organise themselves into small labour-intensive communities. The technique for achieving this end—according to these supporters is to create a state of anxiety among the public about what will happen if they do not revolutionise their style of life and reduce their consumption of goods and services.
Those who reject the Blueprint do not deny that this change of values will occur, but they believe that the transition will be more stable if it is not deliberately engineered (by, for ex ample an authoritarian regime) but is left to the homeostatic mechanisms which have operated in society for thousands of years. Thus, supplies of fossil fuels will not disappear suddenly any more than supplies of timber did; their increasing scarcity will put up their cost and oblige societies to adapt their style of life to low-energy needs. Populations will not be reduced by decree, but by the increasing difficulties of supporting large families; and so on.
The Blueprint calls for an "orchestrated" overall plan to compel people to adapt themselves to live in equilibrium with nature. Opponents of the Blueprint do not believe that overall plans of this kind ever have been realistic or feasible even for single nations, let alone the whole world; and they are convinced that attempts to carry out such plans, by propaganda or compulsion, would fail, and leave despair and bitterness in their wake. But these opponents do not deny that change must occur. Their alternative is the prescription of William Blake (one of the pioneers of conservation): to achieve change not through sweeping rhetoric but " in Minute Particulars"; encouraging re-cycling and innovation which conserves resources, diminishing the amount of pollution per unit product, and diverting much greater technological effort from superfluous consumption to minimising the impact of man on his environment. Both parties to the dispute are likely to agree about some of the practical measures which are needed (some device to ration scarce raw materials, for instance). The opponents of the Blueprint want to negotiate the transition to a steady- state economy by means of thousands of small adaptations, not necessarily articulated into one grand programme. Those who support the Blueprint want a grand programme.
Neither course will be painless. Some tragedy is—in my belief—inevitable. My preference for change through Minute Particulars is simply that this is the way societies have, with great benefit to the common man, adapted themselves for centuries to the consequences of their own impact on the environment. And this adaptation continues. Two centuries of careless exploitation in Britain is now being succeeded by a phase of genuine concern and massive expenditure to make amends for the past. The priorities of society are already changing. I prefer to let this process of adaptation proceed at its natural pace (with all the risks which this undoubtedly involves), rather than subscribe to a comprehensive Blueprint which—unless enforced by autocracy—is unlikely to get further than the drawing board.
Sir Eric Ashby, F.R.S.
Chairman, Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
You were kind enough to show me a draft of A Blueprint for Survival for comment before it reached its final form: some of the comments that follow I made then, and some proceed from further reflection. I said then, and I repeat now, that I warmly welcome the whole enterprise, and I am in general agreement with its practical recommendations. Nothing that follows should overshadow this fundamental accord, both on principles and on measures that need to be taken. Of the points that I want to make, some are comparatively trivial, but others, as I believe, point to fundamental inadequacies both in the analysis and in the remedies proposed. Most of them are to be found in my Rutherford Lecture, Doom or Deliverance? (MUP 1972) 48p.
On page 7 of the Blueprint a diagram is reproduced showing mineral reserves, both static and exponential. On page 41 there is an Appendix on non-renewable resources (which, strangely, excludes the good earth). No evidence is given for the statements about the mineral reserves that remain. Since diminution of resources plays a large part in the main argument of the thesis, it is essential to prove statements about mineral reserves by reference to acknowledged authorities.
The process of industrial and commercial "rationalisation" is largely responsible for the increase of unemployment in this country over the 1 million mark. A transfer from flow to stock economies is likely to cause far more dislocation. In paragraph 244 it is stated, in connection with measures proposed, that "naturally the full force of such measures could not be allowed to operate immediately: they would have to be carefully graded so as to be effective without causing unacceptable degrees of social disturbance". This vague statement needs translating into economic reality. In paragraph 267 the accusation is denied that "we are willing to bring about the collapse of industry, widespread unemployment and the loss of our export market." But I would like to hear an economist asking and answering the question: is it possible to make this transition without great dislocation and huge unemployment? I would like to hear a politician telling us what would be the maximum acceptable degree of social disturbance; and, most important of all, I would like to hear a political philosopher thinking aloud about the ethics involved in deliberately causing present pain and suffering and dislocation in order to promote the future well-being of future citizens.
In almost all countries of the world, there is a huge imbalance between the standard of material living enjoyed by its richest and poorest citizens. This imbalance is only tolerable to the poorer^ citizens because of their expectation that their material standard of living will rise, and probably rise proportionately more than that of the richer citizens. I f however, the predictions of the Blueprint are correct, there will be a ceiling to the nation's material standard of living. The section of the Blueprint concerned with "creating a new social system" does not so much as mention the present imbalance, nor does it contemplate any measures to redress it; yet it is likely that this would be as politically necessary as it is morally desirable.
Here I can best quote from my own Rutherford Lecture: "The finiteness of our global resources and the impossibility of bringing them up to those enjoyed, say, in the Western world, raises in acute form, the question of their equitable distribution. I n a situation of perpetual growth this problem is partly obscured by the rising standard of living in poor countries. Where overall growth slows down or ceases, the moral problem of the different living standards in rich and poor countries becomes even more acute. Already the difference between them is enormous, and it is growing . . . If the developing countries thought that one day they could catch up, this might be just tolerable. But now we know for certain that the world could not sustain that kind of standard of living among all its inhabitants. The case for redressing the balance is overwhelming, especially on a Christian view." (Doom or Deliverance? Manchester University Press 1972. p. 15ff.)
This subject surely should be a matter of major concern in A Blueprint For Survival: but it is not mentioned.
The Blueprint assumes the inevitability of international agreement: a more realistic appraisal would view it rather as an improbability. As these words are being written, it is uncertain whether or not the Eastern bloc may withdraw from the U N Conference on the Human Environment this summer on account of some convention of international politics by which Eastern Germany is not yet a member of the UN, although she will be, all being well, shortly after the conference. National loyalties and rivalries are terribly strong: and yet there must be international agreement to put the Blueprint into effect, since ecological problems are world-wide, and if one country reduces its pollution, or produces (e.g.) a car suitable for leadless petrol, it will price itself out of the export market, unless others do the same. We cannot go it alone.
The Blueprint rightly stresses the need for regionalism, so that communities may be broken down into smaller more autonomous and more meaningful units. But nowhere is the contrast faced between the desire on the one hand for regionalism and the necessity on the other hand for larger units, or at least larger accord between units, in order to guarantee the right priorities in agriculture, production and pollution.
The Blueprint does not raise the real ethical principles underlying the need to change our way of life. What duty do we owe to posterity and why? What right have we to use the resources of the world as we wish and when we wish? What are man's duties, other than self-interest, towards the world of nature, both organic and inorganic, living or sentient? Are its authors working on an unexpressed utilitarian ethic or what?
The Behaviourist Fallacy
The Blueprint tells us of many things that man ought to do, but never seems to suggest that there will be much difficulty in persuading men to do them. But man is capable of greed just as much as goodness; and he finds change particularly difficult to absorb. Underlying the Blueprint is the suggestion that if only the conditions are right, if we evolve a new social system, man will behave in the kind of way that he should. This is a fallacy. Not even education is sufficient to change long inherited tendencies towards acquisitiveness and greed. What is needed is something akin to religious conversion; an emotional shock affecting the very ground of man's being, in which he finds himself responsible to one whose goodness and grace sustains the cosmos in being; a true perspective in which he sees this world not as an end in itself but in the perspective of eternity; a sense of the holiness of all created things, sustained by the Spirit of God, so that to abuse the created order is to grieve the Holy Spirit of God himself. Man needs a profound inner reorientation if he is to co-operate with his environment in a new and stable kind of ecosystem. He needs to use his God- given dominion over nature is a way consonant with his nature as created in the image of God, that is to say, in a way that is divinely responsive and responsible. Without this change there can be no implementation of the Blueprint for Survival. The present signs of coming eco-catastrophe are the outer symptoms of an inner spiritual malaise; and because the Blueprint misses this vital truth, it is sadly inadequate. The positive programme that it puts forward is heartening and hopeful; but unless man can find the will to implement it, it will remain a mere aspiration.
The Blueprint, in defining the goal, would do well to consider the nature of happiness and the way man can find it. Is it sufficient merely to state the goal of "providing a way of life psychologically, intellectually and aesthetically more satisfying than the present one?" (paragraph 354). Or is happiness better described in the Beatitudes of Jesus?
The Rt. Reverend Hugh Montefiore.
Bishop of Kingston-on-Thames.
Having read your synthesis of the Twentieth Century crisis, entitled A Blueprint for Survival, I would like to express my personal admiration and gratitude for the intellectual courage and labour that must have gone into its compilation. I hope, therefore, that you will accept the following criticism of the means you propose in the light of my total acceptance of your ends.
I refer, specifically, to your paragraph 281, sub-sections (b), (e) and (n), and urge you to reconsider the whole concept of using punitive taxation (and its converse, subsidy) as an instrument for changing deeply ingrained human habits.
Experience shows that sumptuary taxes are only marginally effective as a means of altering patterns of consumption. They may persuade people to prefer brand X to brand Y, where there is little real difference between the two, but not to give up practices which you have rightly described as addictions. Successive heavy increases in the duty on alcohol, for example, have not permanently reduced the number of gallons drunk by the children of alcoholics! Moreover, such taxes are socially unjust, in that they bear more heavily on the poor than the rich. Finally, they give the State a vested interest in perpetuating the very things that it is ostensibly trying to eliminate.
If we are to achieve the goal you have postulated, we will have to renounce the hypocrisies as well as the follies of the past, so let us not start by trying to disguise the rationing that may be necessary under the cloak of fiscal measures. To bring book-keeping costs more nearly into line with real costs by compelling manufacturers to pay for the recycling of their waste products, or for rendering them innocuous before discharge into the environment, is a legitimate use of the money mechanism. Arbitrary juggling with prices and costs is not.
In a healthy society such as you propose, individual value judgements (in so far as they are economic) would be expressed through an honest cost/ price system, undistorted by governmental manipulation. Where such private judgements have to be overridden in the interest of collective judgements, this should be done openly and impartially by taking the whole issue out of the cash nexus, thus preventing the private manipulation of grants and subsidies which is such a scandal today.
B. Guy. St Mary's Airport, Isles of Scilly.
I endorse your Blueprint for Survival with enthusiasm, but must point out that it is essential always to get the figures right.
Figure 1. "World Reserve of Crude Petroleum at exponential rate of consumption" is mathematically wrong. I do not know the source of your basic data on oil production per annum, but assuming that it is correctly shown up to the present, and forgetting about estimates of the future, your graph presents an incorrect picture of reality.
The faults are as follows:
1. You have drawn a curve of annual oil production. I f you care to inte grate that curve, an exercise which is easily done with pencil and paper, to obtain the absolute total of oil production year by year since 1900, you will find that world reserves of oil were exhausted in the 1950s.
The reason was that your graph took the original world endowment of oil to be 2,100 billion barrels. Surely M r W. P. Ryman of Standard Oil estimated that world reserves stood at 2,100 billion barrels at the time he made his statement, which must have been quite recently.
2. Again taking your curve of annual production as true, it showed oil production in 1970 to be 220 billion barrels per annum. Now if production were merely to remain at that level for the next 10 years, then total production for the decade will be 2,200 billion barrels. If M r Ryman of Standard Oil was right, then production between 1970 and 1980 will exceed the reserves, even at 1970 levels of production.
So the "correct" interpretation of your graph tells us that either we have long since drained the earth of its oil, or that we shall exhaust the reserves before 1980.
Would you please re-examine the facts, recalculate your graph and print a correct picture of our use of oil. Your arguments will then be all the more credible, and our task all the more urgent.
I.W. Hill. 4 Newby Terrace, Wigginton Road, York Y 0 3 7HU
I am interested in your Blueprint for Survival.
I am a vasectomy surgeon on the staff of the Marie Stopes Clinic, as well as being in general practice, and am a member of the Birth Control Campaign.
You stood up very well to the bullying on Wednesday evening's TV programme! I think that the ease with which populations could be brought under control has not been made clear to the public. It is surely only necessary to enable all couples to have only the children they want to have and not the half million a year they do not want! It is these unwanted ones who are causing "population pollution". The ready acceptance of vasectomy by those who really know what it is, and that it is not the same as castration, makes its potential easy availability a matter of great moment. The administrative obstruction at present preventing the provision of vasectomy by trained general practitioners is ludicrous but very effective and could be easily swept aside at no financial cost if the public could be made aware of the absurdity still held on to by those in power.
Among these absurdities I list the fact that (1) general practitioners are denied facilities to operate in hospitals in England whilst they are allowed to in Scotland and Wales and (2) GPs are allowed to charge NHS patients for prescribing the pill or fitting a coil but if the patient wants a vasectomy he must first resign from the doctor's NHS list, become a private patient and rejoin the list later—a complete waste of time, energy and expense!
I would be very interested to attend your future meetings and to be associated with your Campaign for Survival.
Dr Michael Altman, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., M.R.C.G.P. 1012 High Road, London N.20.
I have found the Blueprint for Survival thought-provoking, and the following remarks are intended as con structive criticism.
I feel that the preoccupation with problems arising from yield increase in high-income countries—pollution, soil destruction—leads to an unnecessarily restrictive attitude concerning yield increase in developing countries. The Ecologist suggests (especially para. 224) that the latter are faced with a choice between increasing the use of the new high-yielding varieties, with associated inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, thereby damaging soil structure and long-term fertility, or improving soil structure. It advocates the latter, without saying how this can be done. I think this neglects two important points. Firstly, use of chemicals in agriculture is so very low in developing countries that pollution can hardly be a serious concern for a long time to come. (The main use of DDT has been to control malaria, not to eliminate agricultural pests.) Secondly, the new wheat and rice varieties have started off a chain of events—technological, economic and social—involving among other things much better husbandry than was practised formerly. It is difficult to see how farming practices could be improved in backward agrarian societies without the impetus provided by the new varieties.
Appendix C, page 41, anticipates famines within the next 15 to 20 years. These would undoubtedly be precipitated if The Ecologist's approach were adopted! In fact, it is very difficult at the present time to make projections of food supply and demand, largely because the impact of the Green Revolution is too recent and uncertain. My own feeling is that this new technology offers a breathing- space which may last for the next 15 to 20 years, and the major question- mark concerns the subsequent period, when population growth in the developing countries will continue and the yield increase available from the technology now available will have been used up.
Appendix C, page 40, states that food stocks in North America have been "allowed to run down", thus losing a useful "cushion". This is a misinterpretation. The USA and to some extent other major grain- exporting countries have been forced to control their production because outlets were not available. The USA food aid programme has been reduced because major recipients (especially India and Pakistan) have been enabled by the new technology to approach self-sufficiency in grains. North America now has substantial unused agricultural potential under present techniques.
The Ecologist advocates (para. 224) an "emergency food supply" to be created by the developed countries. (In para. 282(5) however it is said that this would be necessary until the year 2100.) This is misjudged, for a number of reasons. In the first place, as I have just indicated, unused potential already exists. In the second place, the proposal is inconsistent with The Ecologist's own aims, since the potential exists because of the intensive use of agricultural chemicals, and maintaining the potential to produce a surplus would imply continuing high applications of chemicals. In the third place, if developing countries are made to depend on food imports, their incentive to develop their own agriculture would be diminished: yet their own agricultural development is essential not only to increase their food supply but also to keep as much as possible of their population on the land and to prevent further overcrowding of their cities.
The Ecologist states (para. 133 and Appendix C, p. 40) that yields in the UK are beginning to decline. This is not true. In all the high-income countries, there have from time to time been setbacks for one crop or another, but so far the agricultural scientists have been able to keep ahead of disease and pest problems. Indeed almost every projection of yield so far made has proved too low. The Ecologist is entitled to criticise this development on grounds of pollution, etc., but it must recognise the effectiveness of the techniques.
In paras. 251 to 254 The Ecologist discusses the need for stabilising the population, particularly in Britain, in terms of the "carrying capacity of the land". This is unfortunately much too vague a concept to justify the use made of it and the conclusion drawn—i.e. that Britain should have a population of only 30 million. The carrying capacity depends, among other things, on the pattern of food consumption. The Ecologist recognises that proteins come into the picture as well as calories, but the situation is much more complicated than that. The greater the proportion of livestock proteins, the greater the demands on land use. But a nutritionally adequate diet could be obtained with lower intake of animal protein than that now averaged in most high-income countries; the development of vegetable-based protein foods (especially from soybean) could also reduce land requirements.
Quite possibly Britain would be better off with a population of 30 million, but better arguments than this are needed. I would also question the assumption (para. 253) that Britain ought to be self-supporting in food. This would seem to imply that every food-importing country should reduce its population while food-exporting countries would be entitled to expand theirs. At the very least, Western Europe should surely be considered as a unit for the purpose, and international trade should not be totally neglected either.
If I might add one comment on a subject that is not my own field, I think that The Ecologist neglects the positive contribution of communications, which is a vital feature of modern society. Television, the telephone and so on are not significant sources of environmental disruption, to my knowledge; the press (including The Ecologist) unfortunately is, through the paper industry, but this drawback can perhaps be minimised. At any rate these modern facilities, together with the ease of travel (which admittedly usually is bad for the environment), make possible greater cohesion in human society, gradually extending across national boundaries. (Teilhard de Chardin's vision of a progressive integration of humanity seems relevant in this respect.) This is not necessarily inconsistent with The Ecologist's advocacy of decentralised communities, but suggests that such communities should find their place in a much wider dimension.
Head of OECD Agricultural Policies Division.
I recently received and more recently read the January issue of The Ecologist and wish to commend you for the most excellent piece of work you have done. As the Director of the SCEP and SMIC studies and a mem ber of the Executive Committee of the Club of Rome and the System Dynamics Steering Committee at M.I.T., I have more than a passing interest in the subject matter.
It seems to me that you have not only considered the problem but also you had the courage to set forth some principles which might provide clues as to the pattern of an equilibrium society and, therefore, some of the routes by which one gets from here to there.
As you will see if you've not already seen it, the assessment of some of the characteristics of a stable society to be found in " The Limits to Growth" indicates that it could be a very agreeable and indeed in many ways much more attractive society than the growth-dominated, consumption-obsessed society we now have.
I am glad that SCEP provided such useful background material for your statement and assume that you have seen the follow-up in the workshop on global ecological problems of the Institute of Ecology at Wisconsin this past summer. This is entitled " M a n the Living Environment" and Fred Smith was one of the prime movers and as you will recall he was chairman of one of our critically important working groups in SCEP.
I hope that the focus of debate can shift in part at least to a consideration of the characteristics of a stable society. I believe that your point of decentralised decision-making, yet I would assume national and regional planning, suggests a direction in which I would hope our institutional changes might move.
Also, the notion of setting national self-sufficiency in food with agricultural practices which can be long sustained does fix a reasonable kind of limit on the population which can be adequately supported.
It must have taken a great deal of intensive work by a dedicated team to produce this statement and the statements also going with the Proposal of a Movement.
Some time I trust that the story of how this was done will also be told. When I am next in London I would very much welcome the opportunity of meeting you and hearing more about this important project.
Professor Carroll L. Wilson,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
The Ecologist is sponsoring a"Movement for Survival" which could develop into a political party; but though its aims may be urgent and revolutionary its programme does seem to be somewhat limited with regard to legislative and political implications.
You cheerfully recognise that your aims run somewhat counter to the trends of the times; but the reversal of those trends is a formidable task indeed. It will no doubt help to introduce taxes which will help to conserve raw materials and energy and which will help to encourage the production of high quality goods that will last — consumer durables that really are durable for example. But more than this will be needed to change the life style of a few hundred multinational corporations which, it is confidently predicted, are likely to be responsible for one half of production in the non-communist world within the next 20 years or so.
These multinational corporations are organisations of considerable irresponsible power that appear to be more interested in expansion and in profit and the more effective exploitation of labour and natural resources by capital intensive processes than in life cycles, a stable society or human survival. Any Movement for Survival will need to have ideas about what should be done about these huge organisations dedicated to unlimited growth. Some of them have a vested interest in the production of organo-chlorines, plastics and other chemicals.
Again you lay much emphasis on the need for a dispersal of population and for mixed farming on a relatively small scale in place of the large scale monoculture associated with soil erosion. But populations in developing as well as industrialised countries continue to drift to the towns. The Common Market and other countries are encouraging farmers to leave the land and are planning to take land out of cultivation because of embarrassing food surpluses. There have been food surpluses in other countries too which the peoples of developing countries have not been able to afford to buy. At the same time the big corporations are moving into agriculture in the USA and elsewhere providing cheap food at the expense of posterity.
If the countryside is to be made more attractive to people and to light industry there will probably have to be some rather drastic changes in land tenure; but there is nothing about land tenure in your Blueprint. Land tenure arrangements would also be highly relevant to the more effective utilisation of marginal land.
The great and growing gap between the wealth of industrialised countries and that of developing countries is noted and deplored; but no specific suggestions are put forward about closing this gap. One of the reasons for the recent cut-back in aid by the USA was the US balance of payments deficit created partly by the export of capital by multinational corporations: but the free movement of capital seems to be favoured by many. There is hardly any mention of the intractable problem of inflation yet effective efforts to control pollution are going to add considerably to prices and inflationary pressure. There is little about tax or other measures to bring about a fairer distribution of wealth within nations: but there is already considerable poverty even in high technology cities like Seattle, likely to become worse if there is a sharp increase in food prices and appropriate measures are not taken. The report recognises that it will be extremely difficult to control population increases; and it could be more difficult if mechanical methods are favoured rather than biochemical methods which could have unexpected effects on life processes in the same kind of way as pesticides and chemical fertilisers used on a massive scale before their side effects are fully understood. In any case the peoples of developing countries are likely to resent being lectured and told to control their numbers by people from industrialised countries with very much higher material standards of living. It is probable that the wealth of the world will have to be much more fairly distributed before the peoples of the poorer countries will be willing to accept a reduction in population growth on the ground that there is"not enough to go round".
There are plenty of references in your Blueprint to craftsmanship and rural communities; but no very clear indication as to how these are to be organised. It may be that changes inland tenure and corporation tax could encourage the return of small scale industry to the countryside; and it may be that industrial co-operatives or some form of guild would be a more appropriate vehicle for such developments than the limited liability company. Industrial capitalism has, in fact,been built upon the limited company and its structure may have something to do with the rapid exhaustion of natural resources during the last two centuries. Some of your readers may recall Robert Owen's hope of a new moral world created by the formation of more or less self-supporting rural communities based upon co-operative ideas. He showed at New Lanark that a sense of community and common purpose could be created in an industrial enterprise organised in the interests of the community; and his hope was that industry and agriculture could be integrated through the development of self-governing cooperative communities. A similar hope seems to be implicit in your Blueprint though it is not worked out in quite the same detail as Owen's "Report to the County of Lanark".
Secretary, Robert Owen Bi-Centenary Association,11 Upper Grosvenor Street,London, W1
I am writing to say that I have just read Blueprint for Survival I must confess that I am not a subscriber to The Ecologist, but I now want to say how much I appreciate the Blueprint. I like the way it deals with chemicals and re-cycling; I can enthuse about "local-economy", and so on. I am not happy about abortion, however.
As far as I can see there is no problem about "population" if we resort to murder and suicide. In war we do not call the taking of the life of the enemy murder, but I think we do now regard war, pestilence and all that follows, as evil and wrong and try to rule it out, for our own comfort at least. If taking life is wrong I cannot decide where we must draw the line about abortion. The main feature of ecology—the vital relationships—is finding the right way to live and I'm not sure that abortion can be brought into that. You might say that in nature we do not see all this fuss about life and death, but we are asking man to behave as a responsible being. Can he be allowed abortion and get away with it?
In fact I think the whole question of "freedom" must come into the study. We now know that we cannot be "free" to consume the earth finally, to chuck out our rubbish into the environment; understanding, respect, discipline, obedience seem to be called for rather than "freedom". If we are allowed "freedom" in one vital relationship can we be called to order in others? I do not believe that we can train ourselves to good order in the vital relationships if we are "free" in one of the most attractive. This is very difficult —so is it all — we have great power and "power without responsibility. . . ! ! ! " I can not decide where we should draw the line.
The other thing which struck me is the way that "economics" is referred to. I always make a point of differentiating between "economy" and "finance". For example, a squirrel must study economy but is not bothered with finance. Agricultural land is bought at a rate which makes the rent £15 to £20 per acre; this means that the occupier must get that amount out of the land. This is not (agricultural) economy, it is finance acting as a destructive force. Great 100,000 acre plots of land in Scotland are planted in solid blocks with trees, not for forestry reasons: the people who " d o " it have no interest whatever in trees or their effects, they just want investment for their money. This kind of block afforestation is often bad ecology. I think there should have been a clearer indication of the destructive power that "money" often is. Most things were covered fairly well; I find it unfortunate that this was left out.
But—I wish The Ecologist success.
Ralph Coward, Lower Berrycourt Farm, Donhead St Mary, Shaftesbury, Dorset.
I am writing to express my admiration and gratitude for your Blueprint for Survival, a masterly document which should be a turning- point in the struggle to protect the environment.
I very much hope that having enunciated your principles so clearly you will be successful in getting them applied in practice. You must certainly be aware of "the Strategic Plan for the South-East" to which official blessing has been given. This provides, amongst other things, for major industrial growth in South Hampshire, including the linking of Southampton and Portsmouth into a chain of "development areas", the compulsory purchase of large areas of agricultural land for industrial and residential purposes and the accommodation of 60,000 "overspill" from London. The details will become available when the South Hampshire Structure Plan is published in a few months' time.
This industrialisation of South Hampshire (which will inevitably spell the end of all rural Hampshire) as a deliberate act of Government policy, seems precisely the very thing which your Blueprint is warning us against.
It is very difficult as an individual to fight such a development, but if your movement were to bring all its influence and pressure to bear in killing this "Strategic Plan for the South East" before the Government is too heavily committed to it, it would be a major triumph for the environment and would earn the gratitude of present and future generations.
Mrs G. R. Gardner, 91 Bedford Gardens, London W8.
As a result of the large and justified demand for your January issue giving the Blueprint for Survival, I have only very recently been able to locate a copy. While approving very strongly of the effort you are making to get an exceedingly serious situation properly considered, I would like to make a few comments criticising some of the details, which may seriously weaken its impact on technical audiences. These are mainly concerned with the appendices, which seem to me to be less accurately considered than they should have been.
In Appendix A , for example, on page 26 n second paragraph, there is a comment that strontium 90 gets into the bones of growing children and iodine 131 accumulates in the thyroid gland and that these can give rise to cancer. This is undoubtedly true, and there is no question that the amount of material liberated in test explosions will have had the effect of producing considerable numbers of deaths from such causes. It is, however, quite inappropriate to introduce this in a discussion of the pollution arising from power production. Given that we are going to use any energy at all, other than muscular, the pollution resulting from nuclear power stations is very much less i n its effects than the pollution from any other source. In particular, the number of cancers produced would be far less than the number of deaths produced by smoke from coal or oil fired stations, or even the number produced in non-smokers as a result of their normal contacts with other people's cigarette smoke! Its ecological importance is utterly negligible.
In the following paragraph, it is stated that carcinogenic agents also tend to be mutagens, which is true, and goes on to say that their prolifer22 ation must mean a gradual reduction in the adaptability of our species. This is the exact opposite of the truth. Our physical adaptability depends entirely on the presence of a good number of non-lethal mutations, which are available for selection when the environment changes. Mutagens may be, and are, responsible for "genetic deaths" but do not reduce adaptability.
Later in the same paragraph you say " It is extremely difficult for ecological invasions to occur . . . " . Have you not heard of the prickly pear i n Australia, or the rabbit i n the same country or the grey squirrel in Great Britain? A very large number of cases have occurred where a species foreign to the system has entered an alien system and cut out a niche for itself to the disadvantage of indigenous plants or animals.
On page 28 line six the projection would surely give 8.4 not 18 per cent. On page 32 below line 12, a virus was not found to manifest anything when confronted with a source of protein, but shows its multiplying ability when it has entered a living cell in which it can interfere with the system for production of protein and of D N A .
On page 34, at the end of the second paragraph, it is absolute nonsense to say that our particular scientifically based culture is in no way superior to those developed by the most primitive societies. I t is superior in competitive strength, and i n a number of ways that people enjoy. I suppose what is meant is that the other ways in which i t is inferior are more important than the ways in which it is superior. I f so this should have been stated. Nonsense statements of the present form do not encourage confidence in judgment elsewhere. Nor do the statements about the "primitive wisdom", whatever that may be, of the 700 cultures of New Guinea. Doubtless we can learn something, and perhaps something important, from them, but the maintenance of 700 different languages does not suggest that we can learn much about the worldwide friendliness and cooperation which is obviously our most vital need i f any part of the Blueprint is to be successfully implemented on the international scale required.
You may feel that all this is a matter of niggling detail and that I am diverting attention from the main important issues. In a sense this is true, but the practicability of the important proposals, and especially of long-term ones, is necessarily a matter of judgment based on very inadequate knowledge. If judgment on minor matters which we can understand is unreliable, it reflects doubt upon judgments of major matters. I am surprised that your eminent supporters did not take this into account more seriously than by merely stating that they were not endorsing every detail.
J. H. Fremlin, Professor of Applied Radioactivity,
Department of Physics, University of Birmingham.
Transportation is Waste
(Implications of "A Blueprint for Survival" for Transportation and Land Use Planning)
The urgent message of the Blueprint is, briefly, that our industrial way of life with its emphasis on conspicuous consumption and concommitant pollution of the environment and our failure to check the population explosion will lead to disaster unless steps are taken to counteract these trends and, eventually, stabilise the situation.
Many thinking people will agree in principle with this thesis. But on matters of detail—means rather than ends—experts will disagree. What will the "stable society" look like? How will the transition from the present system be achieved ? The purpose of the present essay is to show that the essential ideas of the Blueprint— conservation of our resources, avoidance of pollution, population control—are not incompatible with a civilised, urban way o f life and that understanding of and manipulation o f the transportation system will be key factors i n making a satisfactory transition from the present muddle co a cleaner and more relaxed way of living i n the future.
A transportation system can be described as a network, its size and complexity measured i n terms of the length and number o f its links. The size and complexity of the road and rail network of Britain are largely determined by the number of places which the networks are designed to serve. I f this number could be drastically reduced, by concentrating the population into relatively few, compact urban areas, then the size of the network, the area of land covered by roads, the amount of traffic and the pollution it causes would all be correspondingly reduced.
Distribution of goods by road
There are over 200,000 miles of road i n Britain. However, a network of under 10,000 miles of trunk roads and motorways connects all the main population centres. If it were possible to vacate all the minor population centres which are not on (or very close to) this trunk road network it would be possible to dispense with more than 100,000 miles of secondary and unclassified roads. A t the same time, avoiding the need for small deliveries, it would be possible to cut out a great deal of inefficient transport. (One large truck travelling fast and fully laden on a motorway could replace up to fifty average delivery vans travelling slowly and more than half empty on minor roads.)
It is perhaps not always realised that the redelivery of goods from warehouses, depots and wholesale markets to small retail establishments occupies up to ten times as many vehicles as the initial distribution from the factories, farms and ports to the bulk breaking and trans-shipment points. The amount of goods traffic at present carried by the road system could be reduced, possibly by as much as 90 per cent in terms of vehicle miles, i f the existing methods of retail distribution (involving nearly 500,000 separate outlets at the last census) were replaced by a configuration of about 5,000 strategically placed shopping centres.
It would be perfectly feasible for a single shopping complex to serve a population o f 5,000 or more, all living within walking distance of it. Goods could be delivered i n bulk to such a complex, assuming it to be under unified control, and there would be no need for redelivery. I t would be necessary, of course, for a small proportion of the population, say 5 per cent, particularly those connected with agriculture and forestry, to live i n small, isolated communities, away from the trunk road network. Essential supplies for these communities could be fetched at moderate cost from the nearest shopping centre using local transport.
The role of the railways
It is a popular misconception, reflected in the Blueprint (para. 270), that railways are generally more efficient than roads. I t is true that, for certain traffics, particularly the bulk movement of commodities such as coal, iron ore, steel, oil or cement, the railways are indeed extremely efficient. However, for most freight the railways are irrelevant or, at most, form only a part of a total system. This is because of transshipment and limitations imposed by the handling capacity o f terminals.
A commuter train can empty itself of a thousand passengers in a few minutes. But in order to run a trainload of containers once a day in each direction between London and Glasgow it is necessary to operate a large fleet of road vehicles (to feed the terminals and to deliver consignments to their final destinations) and, in addition to the railway staff required to move the trains, hundreds of staff have to be employed to load and unload and to administer the system. Even a trainload of goods carried i n bulk takes about two hours to discharge. Waterloo Station can handle passenger trains arriving at the rate of about one a minute. I f a comparable number of freight trains were to arrive carrying general merchandise, 60 miles of sidings and 60 miles of roadway between the sidings would be required and lorries would be leaving this complex at the rate of about one a second. I t is evident that the railways could not begin to cope with this kind of traffic. The motorways however can and do.
Over relatively short distances, with the exception of commodities which can be discharged by gravity, it is cheaper and quicker to send goods by road. I f there appears to be too much traffic on the roads the solution is not to transfer it to rail, particularly where rail is a less efficient mode. The solution is to find ways in which the need for this transport can be avoided altogether.
The location of industry
We have seen how the amount of transport can be greatly reduced by concentrating the population on to a simple but efficient network of trunk roads. Further reductions can be achieved by ensuring that, as far as possible, factories are located within the areas where their products are sold. This is particularly significant in the case of those consumer products which are required in large volume.
If the regional demand for a product is sufficient for an economic production unit to be established within the region there should be no need for any interregional transport of that product. Conversely, no region should be so small that it cannot generate enough demand for viable units to be established to produce a substantial proportion of all the goods and services required to maintain life at a civilised level. There will naturally be some specialised products which cannot be provided universally. Each region will produce those specialised goods for which, because of its geography or climate, i t is peculiarly suited. These will be exported in return for other goods which are best made elsewhere.
In order to discourage the import o f goods from remote locations when similar goods of local manufacture are also available a pricing system which differentiated between production and distribution costs could be introduced. This would also encourage each region to provide a variety of employment for the local population and thus lessen the dependence of some towns and districts on single industries. This dependence at present makes such places dull at any time and vulnerable when the particular industry which sustains them goes into a period of decline. For example ships as a means of passenger transport have been largely replaced by aircraft, but aircraft are not built i n the same places as ships—to the detriment of both industries. When a whole town depends on the success or failure of a single project the outlook can be very bleak indeed.
It is, of course, the variety of employment, of entertainment and of cultural activity which makes the metropolis so attractive and prosperous by comparison with smaller, provincial centres. The need for diversity is a further argument for the concentration of the population into major centres and for the devolution of certain administrative responsibilities, at present regarded as the prerogative of central government, to regional capitals.
If the population is dispersed into relatively small communities, then, either these communities will be self- supporting—and primitive, or they will not be self-supporting—and will have 25to rely on an expensive and wasteful transport system for the import of a variety of goods. They will also have to rely on other, larger communities to train and supply doctors, dentists, teachers, engineers and a variety of other specialists. I t is generally true that in primitive communities life is nasty, brutish and short. I f the population is not controlled by disease and famine then there is always warfare, ritual murder and infanticide. The bringing of medicine, a balanced diet all the year round, education, modern contraception and a host of other benefits to a small settlement implies the absorption of that community into a wider system with the city as the focal point. The process of urbanisation begins.
The problem of size
The stable society which the Blueprint discusses must be seen as an advance of civilisation and not as a retreat back to some kind of peasant society, otherwise it will be rejected. The simple life is a minority taste. The mark of civilisation from the most ancient of times has always been urban life and the culture which urban life alone makes possible. The major centres of civilisation, since long before the industrial revolution, have almost invariably been cities. The statement in the Blueprint (page 33) that 'The Greek City States . . . were, in fact, very small. Only three had more than 20,000 citizens (Athens, Corinth and Syracuse)" is incorrect and misleading. Professor Michael Grant indicates
(Ancient History Atlas, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971, page 36) that in classical Greece there were two cities over 100,000 (Athens and Syracuse), seven in the range 65,000-1,000,000 (Corinth, Argos, Samos, Acragas, Coryra, Tyre and Memphis) and no less than 26 in the range 30,000-65,000. I n Roman times and later much larger cities flourished, Rome itself having over a million population.
Of course sheer size is a problem but this does not mean that small is good. There are ways of tackling the problem without going to the extreme of breaking up communities into settlements which are so small that they would be unable to provide more than the most rudimentary services for the local population without outside assistance. What would life be like in the Falkland Islands or in Tristan da Cunha without the doctors, teachers, books and tools 24 supplied from Britain ? The solution to the problem of city living outlined in the Blueprint is not to be found in the abandonment of cities but rather in their reorganisation.
The problem o f the optimum size for a city requires detailed consideration. Numerous factors are involved and not all of these are easy to evaluate in a cost benefit analysis. Transport is only one of the factors. I t seems likely that cities of half a million population may be required to ensure that transport is kept at a near minimum level while, at the same time, the services which people want are provided. However, from some other points of view a much smaller unit would seem desirable. When all factors are taken into account it may well be found that the ideal solution is a compromise—a city which is a cluster of closely connected towns sharing certain common services.
The hierarchical structure of community life
There is a well defined hierarchial structure in the organisation for the provision of goods and services. For example, in education, primary schools can be small, numerous and dispersed; secondary schools must be larger, or organised into groups, otherwise it will not be possible to provide the variety of courses which are desirable: a college or a department of education, turning out, say, a hundred teachers annually, would serve a regional population of half a million or more. Similarly, in medicine there is the hierarchy of the general practitioner, the health centre or local hospital, and the large teaching hospital. Again, in engineering, there is the local organisation which distributes, maintains and repairs the products of some major manufacturer and then there is the machine tool industry without which the numerous manufacturers of consumer products would themselves be unable to operate. This structure is to some extent reflected in the way the country as a whole is organised. But there are many anomalies.
Delegation of responsibility
There are some responsibilities such as the care of the elderly, the provision of nurseries, the ownership and upkeep of dwellings, the final distribution of food and household goods, which can be largely delegated to small communities or "urban villages". There are other services such as education and health which cannot be organised efficiently except at a a higher, say, regional level. Even so there is every reason why the local employer of the teacher, or the doctor, that is, the citizens through their locally elected representatives, should have the final say in his appointment. When every activity which can be delegated has been delegated as far down the line as possible, so as to secure the maximum participation of all members of the community in the regulation of their daily life, there is little left for central government to do other than lay down broad principles, coordinate certain functions at national level and look after defence and foreign policy. By the same logic taxes should be collected and, to a large extent, spent by the lower level authorities.
The grip of central government is currently very tight. However, the reorganisation of local government in such a way as to ensure that each unit has the capability of providing the majority of the services required is a step in the right direction. The next step must presumably be to make these units financially independent. I n recent years the Outer London Boroughs have been established as major units with central areas increasingly well defined and providing facilities on a scale and of a quality to compare with important provincial centres such as Leicester or Coventry. This goes some way towards counteracting the magnetic effect of Central London and also helps to ease the congeston caused by commuter traffic.
When people say that a city is too large this may often be interpreted as meaning that it takes too long and costs too much to travel to work, to school or to the shops. Moreover the journey is uncomfortable and fatiguing. There is something wrong with the transport system or with the architecture of the city. When people say that a town is too small this may be interpreted as meaning that the facilities are inadequate. Somewhere between too large and too small is the notional optimum—just right. Since the variety and quality of the facilities which can be provided increase with size and since the cost of transport also increases with the size of the system, it follows that the efficiency of the transport system must be a key factor in the determination of the optimum size for a city.
In a great conurbation such as London the commuting problem can be tackled in a number of ways, particularly: (a) by making the transport system more efficient, (b) by making it easier for people to move house so as to reside closer to their place of work, (c) by making it easier for people to change their jobs so that they can work closer to their homes, (d) by improving the efficiency of work in the central area so as to reduce the number of those who are required to work there and by redeploying the surplus labour in new jobs in peripheral locations.
Improving the transport system is a costly business but possibly worth while i f as a result the use of the private car for commuting can be eliminated. Solutions (b) and (c) raise a number of administrative problems which, in the long run, it will be necessary to face. As a short term measure solution, (d) has a great deal to recommend it since all that would be required in the first instance would be the systematic application of well known techniques for the improvement of efficiency in offices and other establishments.
The various problems which have been mentioned—transport, housing, employment, taxation, the location of industry, planning, administration, education, health and welfare—are so interlocked that they cannot be dealt with separately. Jay W. Forrester has pointed out that intuitive plans to solve complex urban problems often produce results opposite from those intended. Subsidised housing is the classic example of this. Nevertheless i t may be possible to solve some social problems and at the same time give the whole system a push in the direction indicated as desirable in the Blueprint by paying greater attention, at both national and local levels, to the connection between transportation and land use.
Transportation is waste. Therefore it should be avoided. This objective can be achieved by concentrating the population into urban communities which are as near self supporting as possible. The degree of independence of each city (or borough within a major conurbation) will largely determine the amount of inter-urban transport and the amount of commuting within the conurbations. To the extent that transr port is necessary, whether between o- within cities, the system should be as efficient as possible.
This does not mean scrapping the motorways. On the contrary, it means looking very carefully at all roads, particularly country roads which carry very little traffic and suburban roads the length of which could be greatly reduced i f houses occupied only the minimum frontage. I t means paying particular attention to the interchange points between routes and between modes of transport, above all it means making the best possible use of urban land. I t is said that there are up to 5,000 acres of bombed sites in London. That is enough room to house a population of 250,000 or more. Certainly i t costs more, initially, to clear up the ugliness of today's cities than it does to build a Milton Keynes on a green field site. Should we not set a higher value on our green fields than on our bombed sites? The stable society of the Blueprint must surely be one which uses and re-uses existing sites, hopefully embellishing them in the process.
Mr Sussams is an Associate of M . L . H . Consultants Limited. He was previously with the National Board for Prices and Incomes and has also had a broad experience in industry, managing major projects in the fields of transport, distribution and the location of facilities. He has published two books and a number of papers.
Survival of four-dimensional man
The Blueprint for Survival has provided a long-needed rational analysis of some of the ecological problems which now face society, and has outlined various ways in which these problems might be tackled. But I am not sure it has gone to the heart of the matter. As a physical scientist, I have a strong commitment to the traditional scientific methodology of experiment, observation, measurement, calculation, and organisation, yet I feel aware of certain inadequacies when this is applied to problems of which man himself is a major component. This short essay is an attempt to place our ecological problems in the context of man and his nature, and to draw attention to certain relevant factors which fall outside the conventional bounds of physical science and sociology.
I feel that the present ecological situation stems from narcissistic elements in the nature of man, mainly his greed and selfishness. The seeds of these were sown in man's distant evolutionary past, but so were the seeds of his present material and moral achievements. I t is on these achievements that we must build; but the Blueprint tends to concentrate on material issues, leaving the moral ones implicit. There is, to be true, in Appendix B an analysis of factors which influence the stability of social systems, but it tends to read in places almost like an essay in thermodynamics, and the word "moral" does not appear.
Man appears to owe his previous great success as an animal to four kinds of attribute, namely his great physical energy and dexterity, his instinctive curiosity, adaptability, and greed, his highly developed intellect, and his spiritual awareness. I n this sense, man is the four-dimensional being mentioned in the title of this essay. A l l four dimensions appear to interpenetrate in some manner which we do not yet well understand.
These attributes, each in varying degrees, have enabled him to react successfully to changed situations in the past, but they cannot necessarily be relied upon to do so in the future. But I do see it as essentially healthy that society (especially the young) appears already to have sensed instinctively that rapidly developing situation which the authors of the Blueprint have described so explicitly, and we may indeed see around us various forms, some rather bizarre, of the resulting social reaction. Some people of course deny that there is any ecological crisis; but the truly unhealthy organism is that which fails to react to changes in its environment. Unfortunately, much of the present reaction is chaotic. The great value of the Blueprint is that it attempts an intelligent organisation of this reaction in the classical manner: it describes the problem and then outlines some rational ways of tackling it. By calling on man's skill, adaptability, and intelligence, it relies on aspects of three of the four well-tried attributes mentioned above. And it implicitly touches the fourth too, for it suggests grounds for hope, and hope is a nourishment without which the spirit of man cannot readily create and accomplish in the face of physical difficulties. I see this spiritual fourth dimension as a key factor in the overall problem, and in any solution to it which we may be able to devise.
At this point, I feel I should define what I mean by the term "spiritual". I do not use it merely in the sense of "immaterial", for the "material- immaterial" dichotomy has long disappeared from fundamental physics: physical theory is now concerned with form, ie waves, fields, structure, and symmetry, and our conventional experience of the everyday physical world provides little guidance to the deeper strata of structured reality. I use the term rather to describe those parts of ourselves which we can subjectively recognise, or sense, to be at least partly independent of our bodily functioning as physico-chemical machines.
This usage of the term "spiritual" is akin to that in some religious teaching. It should not imply anything unscientific, for all our knowledge of reality is based on our perceptions which in turn are subject to our structural limitations.
To solve our present ecological problems we have to consider ways to promote changes in some of the basic patterns of man's behaviour and thought in order to deflect society from disintegration through disease, warfare, or sheer exhaustion under the weight of natural reactions to its pressures. As the Blueprint emphasises, these changes will include general realisation that true progress is not to be equated with simple material growth. We must come to accept that real progress is not crudely synonymous with growth but should be seen as a movement towards stability—not stability in a dull static sense, but rather in a sense of dynamic equilibrium. This is a situation where man's inquisitive instincts will still be necessary, but where his acquisitive instincts will need to be moderated and deflected more into the intellectual and spiritual domains.
One may begin to perceive a developing pattern in all this. Man's knowledge and material acquisitions accumulate because they are readily passed on to successive generations, but each generation appears to learn wisdom afresh from personal experience, gaining comparatively little from the past. ( I am referring to wisdom as essentially a spiritual quality, substantially distinct from intelligence.) I t is true that one may point to signs of the evolution of a social conscience manifest in various forms of socialism and humanism, and to the fitful development of spiritual awareness in Judaism, Christianity, and various oriental religions; but the pure waters of the original inspirations are often muddied by contamination as they become distant from the source. This spiritual and material imbalance in man has of course been identified by many previous writers, but it seems worth restating because I feel it stands in close relationship to the ecological imbalance described in the Blueprint. The relationship may well be partly or even largely one of cause and effect. The ecological problem may provide the ladder by which man can take an evolutionary upward step if he is fit, or a downward step if he is unfit—in short, the crunch. I see it as natural, in the same sense that an Ice Age, say, is natural. But this evolutionary challenge appears to me to require more than technological and sociological reorganisation. Man may need to be activated more by a positive desire for a truly better life than just a blind fear of not surviving. Thus it may at last have become an evolutionary necessity for man to become more moral. If this view is correct, our approach to man's ecological problems will be lopsided if it fails to refer to man in all his parts as they relate to his fellows and to his environment. But the Blueprint appears to be permeated by this assumption: science and technology have got us into a mess, so science and technology, with some help from sociology, can get us out.
I feel that we must start from a more basic assumption than this: man has got himself into a mess. The problems originate in the nature of man himself, and science and technology are but tools which he may use or abuse. Arthur Koestler writing in The Ghost in the Machine has expressed one viewpoint of this type with great cogency. He draws attention to the great rapidity, on the evolutionary time scale, with which the human brain has developed to its present size and complexity as an organ of the body, and considers that man is seriously, perhaps fatally, handicapped by those more primitive parts of his brain which he has inherited from his evolutionary ancestors. But the solution, perhaps surgery or some drug treatment, is unlikely to gain popular appeal.
I certainly go part of the way with Koestler, but I do not consider that man is necessarily innately defective in his physical make-up even though most individual men may well be so. There is abundant evidence from history that individual men have succeeded, often with great effort to be sure, in subordinating those coarser and instinctive aspects of emotion and behaviour (selfishness, lust, greed, hatred, etc) by calling upon something higher within and/or external to themselves. Christianity and other world religions have long taught that this is possible, and have provided some of the better known individual examples from the ranks of their adherents. Secular doctrines such as Marxism, Maoism, and humanism seem to imply belief in a similar possibility for man, although these in their different ways appear to be handicapped by an excessive emphasis on human sense activity. Of course, it may seem reasonable to tackle those special problems first which one can perceive most clearly, but there is a danger in an oversimplified approach that one may develop an unduly dogmatic and restricted view of the nature of reality. These doctrines rest on the (sometimes tacit) assumption that reality should be defined in terms of man's present cognitive abilities—which seems arrogant, and unscientific.
It is true that Marx in his early Theses on Feuerbach recognised a limitation in the materialistic approach of his time, but the implications of this seem to have been overlooked during the implementation of his other teachings with their emphasis on praxis, and the supposed need to protect people from the distractions of religious belief. Likewise, the selflessness advocated by Mao Tse-Tung encourages a man to look beyond himself, and recalls aspects of the Christian ethic.
Facts of life unrecognised
Yet I know of no theological or political doctrine which has recognised the economic and sociological facts of life spelt out in the Blueprint. No conceivable redistribution of wealth, material resources, or political power could indefinitely provide three square meals a day and the basics of present western material "civilisation" for the present world population, let alone that doubled population which we may reasonably expect by the end of the 20th century. Even re-organisation along the lines suggested in the Blueprint will of necessity involve some significant reduction in the more gadgety standards of life which we now associate with western civilisation, but I would expect the sensed quality of life to be improved. I see no prospect of accomplishing this substantial deflection from narrow materialism and self-interest through application of any of the current political doctrines. Nor would I follow Dr Herman kahn, and aim to utilise the power of human selfishness, properly harnessed, to cure our ills. Such a cure could in the long run prove worse than the disease.
A renaissance of religious belief might well offer a better prospect, but many of the present religious leaders and their followers appear to have lost credibility through attempts to maintain traditional doctrines in the face of growing economic and social pressures to which some of these doctrines, in their old forms, appear increasingly irrelevant, and in the face of the widespread (and I believe erroneous) view that science has "debunked" religion. The real conflict is not between science and religion, but between the scientific attitude with its emphasis on observation and the religious attitude with its emphasis on faith.
Of course, the correct scientific attitude is to preserve an open mind on all matters until good evidence is available. Yet paradoxically, the deeper aspects of reality may lie beyond the cognitive limitations of the human brain coupled to its present sensory organs, and recognisable "scientific" evidence on these may be inaccessible to us: as the Binomial Theorem is basically inaccessible to an ant. So despite what I have said above concerning the correct scientific attitude, it may be prudent for man not to allow his perceptions or his imagination (which can act as a type of sensory organ) to be unduly inhibited concerning questions of spiritual reality which do not as yet appear susceptible to treatment by conventional scientific methodology. It was Jung, I believe, who commented on the fact that religious belief is a necessary, psychological prop to most men, whatever its absolute truth may be.* Those well- meaning humanists and others who have sought to kick away this prop in the interests of what they suppose to be scientific truth or social progress may have unwittingly caused subtle damage to the fabric of society, and much individual confusion and unhappiness.
Thus the purpose of ecology should be to advance civilisation in the truest sense of the word, namely the quality of man's interaction with his fellow men, and with his environment. This advance will certainly require intelligent and humane controls, perhaps of the type discussed in the Blueprint, but the necessary fundamental and lasting changes in our attitudes to our environment and to each other will not, I suspect, be brought about merely by fear of catastrophe, still less by government decree. A profound spiritual transformation will be required. Those of us trained in the disciplines of science can teach by personal example and in all other possible ways what we know about scientific reality, and equally about those aspects of reality on which present-day science provides little or no knowledge: about beauty, good and evil, and most of all, about love. The world may indeed be short of petroleum, platinum and the like, but when love is in short supply, no surplus of minerals will make life good.
No lack of love
The problem of excess population cannot be readily attributed to a lack of love, as normally understood. Indeed, the statistical expectation of life, especially for the young, has risen in most parts of the world through seemingly humane developments in modern medicine, pest control, social services, and agricultural technology. This part of our problem seems more to stem from our limited intellectual ability to foresee the long-term consequences of our actions. For example we failed to realise that the increased control of disease by antibiotics and other modern drugs would also increase the population. Medicine may need in future to be directed more towards improving the quality of life for the individual than increasing the individual life span. Unfortunately, those who choose to define reality in terms of man may still opt for the latter.
It may be argued that man cannot be expected to pull himself up by his spiritual bootlaces, and that it is more natural for most men to be selfish than to be good; but this seems unduly pessimistic. While we must live with the frailties that exist within each of us to varying degrees, I do not believe that man has so little spiritual vigour that he cannot make the effort to surmount these, once he understands the point of the exercise. Further, many of the disadvantages under which we now try to function as reasonable and humane creatures appear to stem from basically avoidable sociological and environmental hazards. Thus my personal concern with heavy metal pollutants such as lead stems from the realisation that these can give rise to serious emotional and behavioural abnormalities, quite apart from clinically recognisable disorders of health. The problem of coming to terms with our limitations is hard enough without the additional burden of self-inflicted physical damage to the brain.
It would be totally unrealistic to expect that man could develop a heightened spiritual awareness "at a stroke", as it were; but from a practical viewpoint I certainly feel that such awareness will be a necessary attribute in those political leaders who will have the task of piloting society through the rough waters ahead. Unfortunately, it is not easy to perceive many men of outstanding moral or spiritual stature among present world leaders, but, politics aside, I would venture to suggest Mao Tse-Tung and Willy Brandt as representing in some aspects the type of person I have in mind.
To summarise, I suggest that the nature of man is rapidly bringing him towards a crisis in his relationship with the world. Our attempts to avoid this crisis should call upon man's great reserves of spiritual strength, and should not just aim for better book-keeping in man's utilisation of material resources and control of his numbers—although these aspects are important too.
So as we plan to survive let us plan to deserve to survive.
No one I think can refrain from admiring the courage and imagination embodied in the Blueprint for Survival. It represents the first attempt to frame a new conception of the direction and purpose of human life. But like all pioneer efforts it has its imperfections and it is with the object of trying to help to eliminate some of these weaknesses that I offer the following comments.
In picking on decentralisation as, so to speak, the central issue, the document has not gone deep enough. The excessive centralisation from which we suffer is not a malady but a symptom. The real trouble is that we live in a society which regards the acquisition of goods as the principle objective of human existence, and expresses this belief in a market economy. Given this belief and this economy centralisation is inevitable. In these conditions decentralisation could only be achieved and maintained by immensely strong central controls—a ridiculous paradox. What is needed is to alter the whole basis of our thinking and to establish a society in which men find their satisfaction in other things than piling up their possessions. In such a society over-centralisation will cease to be a problem and the organisation of society, both physical and administrative, will fall, of its own accord, into newer and better patterns.
This means a new approach to the purpose of work. A t present, with most people, the purpose of work is to provide them and their families with as good a material standard of living as possible. The idea of providing a service to the community, or of satisfying their own creative instincts, figures to some extent in people's thoughts about their jobs—more in some cases than in others—but the provision of a high material standard of living is always paramount. What is needed is to reverse this order of precedence; to create a climate of opinion in which people work primarily to serve the community, secondly for the satisfaction of exercising their mental and physical powers, and only thirdly to get a living. In a society governed by these principles an adequate standard of living would be guaranteed to everyone, but income differentials would be small because they would no longer be needed. When a job provides its own satisfaction no further incentives are needed. This would mean a society largely egalitarian in material things, and in such a society there would be little scope for material status symbols or the accumulation of possessions. Moreover, where the primary aim of work is the welfare of the community, the stimulation of hitherto unfelt desires will be regarded as a rather unworthy occupation.
It is my belief that this proposition is not so Utopian as it may seem. I believe that there is a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction with the goals and methods of modern society, and therefore a real hope of our being able to make the necessary transformation in an orderly way before events overwhelm us.
Yours, O. Barraclough, (Hon. Treasurer, Conservation Society).