This is not in the first place a reaction to what you wrote Loren. But your
latest made me think that it was time to get back to basics and perhaps drop
a few explosives on the flames.
In a recent National Geographic ( Jan. '99 i think) it was stated that there
were scientists who thought that the global carrying capacity for mankind
was around 2 billion. There are now more than 6 billion. ( personally i
think that these unnamed scientists may be overly optimistic but i must
admit that it will all depend on how important biodiversity is going to
prove to be)
What is happening in the world can be simplistically described as follows :
mankind is converting the global biodiversity into mankind, relatively very
few domesticated species (animals and plants) and those species that can
parasitise man and his followers. Viruses, bacteria and fungi have a much
brighter future ahead of them than species that we see as competitors.(or
species that we don't see at all)
How can a species actually survive in numbers above the carrying capacity?
Essentially by further reducing the carrying capacity. Perhaps a simplistic
parallel can make clear what i think is happening.
Imagine a family that as just inherited a massive fortune. It is very easy
in the beginning for that family and their children and children's children
and grand children to just live on the interest of that capital if it is
well invested. Ten generations in the future however there may be so many of
them that the interest is no longer enough and they have to start eating
into the original capital. This can not last indefinitely especially if
numbers keep on growing. But as long as there is enough the process is
After this prelude it is about time to bring into this the word
"sustainable". What do we actually mean by this? Does sustainable mean up to
the point that the interest suffices or do we mean as long as there is
anything at all to eat?
How important is biodiversity?
We have not reached the point where mankind and the domestics comprise the
total global biomass. But if biodiversity is completely unimportant this is
where we are heading. I can not imagine that we will be able to keep this
situation up without massive application of zillions new chemicals. Under
this scenario a little roundup won't matter or will be a very good thing.
If biodiversity on the other hand is an important part of our original
capital we are now possibly reaching a point where the fast diminishing
capital can no longer sustain our numbers. If this should be the case it
will be the small subsistence farmers and the organic farmers, the ones not
using any chemicals that will prove the most sustainable and are doing the
most to uphold a collapsing building.
I am not sure there is a middle way. In the first case we are still climbing
towards the top of our Everest. In the second case we are already over the
edge of the abyss and in free fall on our way to the bottom. One thing is
sure : we are in full motion.
To spell it out : all my money is on the second scenario and i am a small
organic farmer. No roundup for me. I think Bart is right in saying that a
25% overall reduction of chemicals is better than 10% through pure organics.
I also do not think that on a global scale pesticide use is being reduced at
all. Even if it were, a 25% reduction would not change much the final
Expecting the worst and sincerely yours,
----- Original Message -----
From: Loren Muldowney <email@example.com.EDU>
To: sanet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, June 02, 2000 10:23 PM
Subject: sustainable, organic, London, Groff, flames and all that
> A few months ago, during the "being a heretic" thread, I prefaced a post
> "What I am really uncomfortable about is using this forum for the
> discussion of the organic standards. That said, I'll do it anyway,
> since there are plenty of people here who seem interested. But if I get
> lots of complaints, I'll quit."
> Several people expressed surprise that I might have gotten the
> impression that such discussion is not welcome here. Since I was being
> "nice" and trying not to point fingers, I let it slide without
> specifying why. At this time several people seem to think Mr. London
> out of line with his rather pointed criticism of Mr. Groff-for example,
> Steve Diver's comment about "Larry London the organic farmer bashing
> Steve Groff the no-till farmer here on Sanet."
> Apparently they failed to notice the 75 times when Mr. London and others
> refrained from saying "why don't you shut up already?" in response to
> persistent, unnecessary, unsolicited low-level general insults to
> organic positions. It's all in the archive for anybody determined to
> I felt uncomfortable about the tolerance of this forum for an organic
> standards discussion mostly due to the continuing disparaging comments
> of Mr. Groff, which go mostly unchallenged. Since they remain mostly
> unchallenged, it is not possible to tell whether that indicates
> widespread agreement or a widespread ability to ignore and tolerate
> irritating commentary or that it goes unnoticed or some blend of the
> above. It should not, however, be a big surprise when somebody finally
> has enough and responds with some irritation. Anyone who is genuinely
> concerned that we should "build bridges and not make war" has the
> opportunity to put that into practice beginning today, by refraining
> from further pointless disparagement.
> So, who gets the prize for being the most sustainable? I am pretty sure
> that nobody is there yet. Is anybody carbon neutral? Are the materials
> loops closed yet? How is the biodiversity of your landscape? Can we
> admit that "cost" is not the same as "cost"? Is "profit" which is
> gained by externalizing costs to be pronounced "sustainable?" There was
> recently a very brief thread on embodied energy. Why was it so brief?
> Is it or is it not relevant to being sustainable? I think it is very
> important. Shall we pretend that shipping stuff around the world has no
> environmental impact? I consider it a cost to me that xenobiotic
> materials which I do not use or purchase can nonetheless be found in my
> body tissues. Does anybody have the courage to actually either agree or
> Avoiding all conflict, in particular over which version of "sustainable"
> is the one being used, will lead nowhere. It will just lead to a
> misplaced assessment of where the actual conflict is. The words do
> matter. Since there is a problem in that nobody "owns" words, when
> divergent meanings are used by different groups, I recommend defining
> certain terms such that they are internally consistent withing a given
> thread. That is assuming, of course, that the goal is genuine
> communication. It is my operating hypothesis that, when an individual
> refuses to define terms or commit to a position personally, that genuine
> communication is not that person's goal.
> Now if anybody wants to flame me personally, or criticize something I
> said, that is fine. Just make sure it is what I said and not what you
> project or what somebody who reminds you of me said. It is not only
> fin, it is, in fact, productive. What is not productive are vague
> statements about unnamed organic zealots who are not here to be quoted
> directly or to clarify their own positions. Anyone too lazy or gutless
> to follow through with a specific discussion with a specific person,
> using quoted text, is not making a point or building a bridge.
> Loren Muldowney
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