A Coronavirus Mash-Up for the Ecologically-Minded

Joseph J. Bish, MS Mar 19, 2020

Today, we at Population Media Center hope you are in a position to practice meaningful social distancing. One way to help pass the time can be through engaging the associative faculties of our minds. To that end, the thread below is a mash-up of excerpts related to the combination of “limits to growth” and “COVID-19.” If you have a moment, please let us know what global sustainability issues that Population Media Center work on interest you most! As a globally operating organization, committed to a sustainable planet with equal rights for all, we always want to keep you informed and up to date.

A Synopsis: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

To overshoot means to go too far, to grow so large so quickly that limits are exceeded. When an overshoot occurs, it induces stresses that begin to slow and stop growth. The three causes of overshoot are always the same, at any scale from personal to planetary. First, there is growth, acceleration, rapid change. Second, there is some form of limit or barrier, beyond which the moving system may not safely go. Third, there is a delay or mistake in the perceptions and the responses that try to keep the system within its limits. The delays can arise from inattention, faulty data, a false theory about how the system responds, deliberate efforts to mislead, or from momentum that prevents the system from being stopped quickly.

Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History

…It might also be good to replace the linear “if present trends continue” conception of history as a steady progression toward some stable state with the dialectical conception of history that Hegel and Kojève in fact used. Present trends don’t continue. They produce backlashes and reshufflings of the social deck. The identities that people embrace today are the identities their children will want to escape from tomorrow. History is somersaults all the way to the end. That’s why it’s so hard to write, and so hard to predict.

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse (published 6 years ago, in 2014)

The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilization would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticized as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”. It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

Governments Must Act to Stop the Coronavirus – But We Can’t Return to Business as Usual

If we really care about the health of people and planet, we should think twice before we decide to spend money on accelerating this destructive trajectory. While it is essential that jobs are maintained and undue hardship is avoided, propping up the status quo is not the only option available. Instead, governments could forge a different path by unleashing a vast programme of investment to decarbonise the global economy as fast as is feasibly possible, and bring our environmental footprint within fair and sustainable limits. The effect would be to mobilise resources to transform our energy, transport, housing and agriculture sectors, decarbonise production and consumption, and restore our natural ecosystems.

Coronavirus, Degrowth and Self Isolation

But let us remember that the current contraction is being forced by the ecological crisis brought about by an economy that is illiterate and indifferent to its impacts on the natural world. Normally it is other people and other communities and other species that carry the so called “external costs” of economic development while the corporate magnates reap the profits – this time round though a virus is unleashed that destroys the very foundations of economic activity and the corporations too. Economists and central bankers could ignore the ecological crisis until now – but now they find that the ecological disruption imposed on the biosphere is unleashing a Pandora’s pox of problems for which they have no response.

A Message From Bill Ryerson, President And Founder Of Population Media Center

Population Media Center’s shows continue to reach global audiences, many of which are in areas at high risk for the current outbreak, so we have expanded our narratives to include content relevant to the current pandemic. Through short epilogues at the end of episodes, social media campaigns, and more, our characters are engaging audiences worldwide by role modeling handwashing, protocols to stay healthy, and cultivating community in times of hardship.