Any system, that can no longer sustain itself in its present form is bound to be consumed by another system or it needs to evolve. All living systems are connected and inter-dependent. Take an example of a simple flower pot. Roots are plugged into the soil, plant growth depends on the soil substance, mineral and nutrient richness, soil microorganisms and other bacteria invisible to human eye. It also depends on provision of H2O, CO2 and sunlight. Receiving from below and above. Don’t forget the bees, bugs and butterflies hovering around, pollinating tirelessly day in day out.
As human beings we represent an inherent part of the system at large. In general, complexity of our lives has increased significantly if we compare a life style of an individual living in a metropolitan city these days with an individual living in a more rural environment ca 30 year ago. Major factors influencing this change are increased quantity of information human mind is willing to process and engage in as well as the notion of the pace of life, rushed in every single way. Mind is trained and consistently encouraged to focus more on the end rather than the means to an end. This means we are always somewhere else, that is not, rather than here and now, that is all there is. Have you ever heard of Allan Watts?
Time serves its purpose. IMO it’s a parameter that needs to be put into perspective and understood in its many various forms. However, governed by a linear time perception we can easily become enslaved into something that is limited.
I wonder; is our limited understanding of a larger time span compromised due to our short term existence and hence inability to comprehend larger dimension of time? And, am I trying to fit something infinite to my currently limited and finite ability of understanding ?
So, how long can the growth continue as a result of the discovery of 3 new bottles: this quadrupling of the proven resource?
Can we continue with the same rate of population growth?
Can we continue with the same rate of oil extraction?
Earth can surely provide to satisfy everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed!
It is not so much about the numbers – it is about the attitude we have towards other living beings, towards Planet Earth, towards limited resources!
“Earth is the home we all share, providing us with the air & water we all breathe & drink. When talking about planet Earth, which I find the most loving & motherly, it never occurs to me to think of any *isms*… we are all human beings, capable of understanding what is happening, and what we’re doing…. sometimes, all we need is a pinch of clarity.
When I come accross such anomalies as exponential population growth, it reminds me of a behaviour of virus, which spreads for the price of life of the host, and of itself… we may have a tendency to behave like virus… but we are not virus, we can think and act to protect and to care for life…. We are all expression of the same Self. It’s not about what we think we are, it’s about who we truly are.
I dare to believe that most people are simply too busy with their daily lives, earning their daily bread and they can’t see the consequence of our small daily actions.
A bit of light always helps to see things clearly.
We all inhabit Planet Earth – a space defined by boundaries. According to the studies conducted by NEF (New Economic Foundation) it currently takes the biosphere about 18 months to produce what humanity consumes in only 12 months. This tipping point happened sometimes in 1960s.
If every nation in the planet consumed the same amount of natural resource as the US does, we would need between 5 -6 planet earths, to satisfy everybody’s needs.
The above data is from 2007. I was comparing this data to other sources, which vary for – / + 0.5. Looking at 2012 data, India increased from 0.4 to 0.8, China is up to 1.2 and Brazil to 1.9. The largest consumers of natural resources, not on this chart are the United Arab Emirates.
Using 2012 data, China and India represent 2.6 billion people – rougly 38% of the world population – and growing.
One of the key factors related to global demand of natural resources is increasing number of population. However, we cannot neglect country’s purchasing power – their market position, access to natural resources and their level of development. For example – global oil consumption is 89 million barrels a day. United States consume 20 million barrels a day (22% of the global use) while they represent a fraction – only 4.5% of the total world population. China currently uses 7m/b/day and has 1.35 billion people, with increasing needs and demands.
Global population growth represents exponential growth (a chart pattern that is often called a “hockey stick”).
For the last few months I’ve been working and living in Mexico and would like to demonstrate exponential growth of Mexico City. The city has between 20 and 22 million people ( 2012). In 1900, only 113 years back, the number was 0.5 million.
How does steady growth turn into exponential growth?
Let’s apply arithmetic, which I learned from Dr. Albert A. Bartlett. I have great respect for his wisdom, especially for the message he was trying to convey: “The greatest shortcoming of the Human Race is our Inability to Understand the Exponential Function.”
What is exponential function?
Exponential function is a mathematical function, used to describe the size of anything that is growing steadily, for example – 5% per year.
I came to realize how this problem affects numerous critical areas we’re facing at the moment, one of them being population growth. The case I have chosen demonstrates the importance of understanding unsustainable exponential growth and can be applied in others area; for example GDP – promotion of 5% steady growth of GDP, which is constantly brought forward by politicians as a solution to our current economic crisis.
Why it cannot work?
We are talking about a situation where the time that is required for the growing quantity to increase by a fixed fraction is constant. (e.g. 5% per year – 5% is a fixed fraction, 1 year is a fixed length of time). If it takes a fixed length of time to grow 5%, than it follows, that it takes a longer fixed length of time to grow by 100%. This longer time is called the doubling time.
a) To calculate doubling time we need to apply a simple formula (using example of 5% annual growth)
Can we really achieve 10% growth in 14 years, 20% in 28 years and 40% and 42 years time? Having limited amount of resources, lagging technology, continuous investment in dwindling fossil fuel extraction and increasing CO2 emission? I think it’s about time to redefine growth!
b) Let’s apply the calculation for population growth in Mexico City.
Based on National Statistical Data, the number of population in 1900 was approximately 0.5 million, 4.5 million in 1960 and 9 million in 1980, following the average growth of 3.5% yearly until 2000 when it dropped to 2%.
No. of population according to our calculation
Numbers according to Nat. Statistics
Recorded average 3.5% growth between 1900 and 2000
70/3.5 à 20
Every 20 years the number of people doubles
The growth rate fell to 2% in 2000s, it takes now 35y for the population to double
The results of calculation match with the actual data. There is minor deviation due to the average of 3.5% between 1900 and 2000, which is acceptable and accurate enough to confirm the validity of results. Using other important indicators, which affect life on earth we notice similar patterns.
Graphs above follow the same “hockey stick” pattern, typical for unsustainable exponential growth (Melting of Arctic Sea Ice, Global Land and Ocean Temperature, Number of Weather related Disasters, Global Ocean Acidification, Human Population Growth, CO2, N2O and CH4 Emission, Oil Extraction).
We started off with a steady growth, lasting for 80 years, which tipped over into unsustainable exponential growth after 1980s. Mexico City has begun sprawling out and up the surrounding hills, once a home of rich biodiversity, covered with trees, to protect from landslides, today covered by concrete houses.
The natural conditions and the infrastructural foundations of Mexico City was not built to accommodate 32 million people. What I’m currently able to see around me is poor infrastructure, inefficient transport system, pollution, poor quality of water, high level of food dependency, dependency on fossil fuels and increased social inequality. In addition to that, the city was built on plate tectonics, on soft unconsolidated sediments that fill a former Lake Texcoco, surrounded by volcanos. It has a history of earthquakes, the latest and most damaging one was in 1984 with the magnitude of 8.1 on Richter Scale. In 1980s, there were only 9 million people.
You may say it’s an extreme example, and yes, I agree – it is. It just happens to be that I’m currently working and living in this city, hence it’s real to my eyes and I have a direct overview and experience of how it functions on daily basis.
Such extreme examples indicate our extreme inability to connect the dots and think & live sustainably. This example shows we don’t think carefully enough about the future, we don’t protect the environment and the generations yet to come and we are not ensuring them access to clean water, healthy food and breathable air.
Such is the case with Mexico City. Despite all, Mexicans remain one of the happiest, most optimistic and good hearted people I have ever met and I’m fully grateful for the experience. I only wish they would be encouraged to think about the bigger picture, not only about the American dream, that exists only in dreams. Most of the people living in this city struggle to earn their daily bread, to make it through the day, week or month. Current system doesn’t do much to support and/ or encourage a more sustainable way of thinking and living. My comments are made based on general observation and conversation I had with variety of people including students and faculty from privately owned and state Universities.
We can apply exponential growth to other areas. Graphs above show a similar pattern in many critical areas we’re presented with at the moment. They are affecting the whole globe. Knowing how exponential growth works, we can realize that current understanding of steady GDP growth is not only impossible; promoting such growth by policy makers and certain experts is deceiving and destructive in a long term. It simply can not be sustained. As physical beings we inhabit Planet Earth, and as such, our space is defined by physical boundaries.
Third screening of Documentary “Schooling the World”,
Waldorf School, May 2012
Every film we watch, offers a unique experience. I was interested to find out more about that unique experience of individuals after watching the documentary “Schooling the World”.
Following my curiosity and weaving all together with my final project on a postgraduate course. I organized 6 iterations of “Schooling the World”. First one was at Schumacher College, Second at Kevicc High School.
Third iteration was hosted by Waldorf School in Slovenia (Celje), supported by a very kind and open minded School Principal Bostjan Strajhar. We had some initial technical problems, but with a great deal of patience we managed to get the speakers playing, watched the documentary and spent about an hour discussing about various challenges of education.
There was about 30 participants who came to the screening. Being my third screening, I have learned that I am not able to encourage everybody to verbally express their opinion and join discussion in a limited time. To give everybody a chance to share their experience I decided to create a simple written feedback form…
I would like to invite you to share your experience while watching the documentary:
1. How would you describe it as a:
– emerging thought
– memory you may have had
– emotion that may have been triggered
2. Would you agree there is a connection between the educational system and the current economic situation? (considering many challenges we’re facing today – instability, unemployment rate, longer working hours, pollution)
3. If the answer is YES, where do YOU see the connection?
4. Have you come to any realization after watching this documentary – something you may have forgotten?
5. How many years have you spent studying in educational institutions?
It took us about 10 – 15 minutes to complete the questionnaire.
I will share a selection of comments I find to be most interesting:
School should support individuals, teach about life, not indoctrinate
How do we learn to live and let others live?
There is a need to go back to the nature.
Economic progress is not an indicator of a progressive society.
To impose culture of somebody else, results in destruction of your own culture.
To live in connection with nature is to learn about life.
My grandma went to school for 6 years and had more wisdom than I do with more years of education.
Memories when I went to school, it was much more liberal and human (in ex Yugoslavia).
Sitting in the classroom when I was a little child, “getting ready for life”, still at the end I didn’t know if I was ready for life or if I learned what I really want to do in my life.
Nice memories of childhood surrounded by mountains and nature.
Becoming aware how important it is to teach with love and understanding.
Children who go to school are getting disconnected from nature. Sadness.
Each of us is trying to find happiness in his/her own way. Some lead, the other follow.
What is freedom and what happiness? What is “West” promising, selling, trying to solve? Why is “West” continuously spreading lies?
Not being able to see the complete picture – we try to help and we think we’re doing good, however what is good? Do we really know?
25 out of 26 people see the connection between educational system and current economic situation.
People are trying follow some “external goals” to be accepted by society.
It’s obvious – all is based on priorities of individuals.
Uniformity, indoctrination, confinement, not being able to live without technological development and products.
Educational system doesn’t teach us how to take care, how to live fully, how to grow food, how to take care of each other.
Competition on a local level – “must have as much as possible mentality”
Uniformed educational system creates a particular mind set, doesn’t allow to see the broad picture
Plenty of unemployed educated people, incapable of surviving
Economy and educational system have been co-developing, growing together. Educated people have a different way of being compared to those without education. People are being educated for jobs that don’t exist.
Materialistic attitude, importance of certain position in society, career – which is being presented as a source of happiness
Educational system doesn’t support free thinking. If one thinks with his/ her own mind, they are no longer good for the job, which is profit oriented . They are no longer have a need to continuously spend money.
The very essence of society is being changed, the values are changing.
Imposing particular ways of thinking, subtle encouragement towards consumerism
People are being moulded into consumer oriented members of society – this is done through educational system mainly.
This documentary has confirmed my doubts about educational system, I’m wondering how to avoid it and change it.
Despite 20 years of education, I still have no ideas how to do manage things – but I’m still leaning
Need to go back to the roots and learn from our ancestors
Nobody should interfere in other cultures with their “help and financial aid”
A need to ask ourselves – what do we want from education and educational system
How the colonization is still taking place – examples of US and UK influencing destinies of other nations. How they see themselves as superior and their way of doing as being better compared to others. As if they’re the best, as if they know best. It has proven not to be so.
People start losing connection with themselves when they’re locked within educational system – we need to find alternatives
It reinforced a wish to live a simple life, to be connected to nature.
We’ve been brain washed, I’m happy to be able to see this, but not happy to see what is happening.
Importance of encouraging traditional values and wisdom. Nature and land is the most important wealth to sustain humanity.
Crisis of value system, isolation, society becoming autistic (society losing emotional intelligence). People becoming egoistic and selfish
When traveling to so called “less developed” countries, I often said to myself, how lucky they are to be happy with as little as they have – and yet, so much they have, being able to live in a beautiful, natural environment.
Educational system is not tailored to match the individual. It’s trying to make everybody the same – at least trying to.
It gave me a clear message that we have to radically change the educational system or even abolish the term education.
Example: 8 participants spent 16 years studying in Educational Institution
Participants of discussion are fully aware of challenges and problems within Educational system. Some of the main problems are disconnection from nature, increased consumerism and production line style of Education. Such system usually leads to a uniformed way of thinking that causes monoculture and changes the fabric of Society. This causing concerns; questions about alternative ways of education have been raised; such as home schooling and Waldorf type of Education.
There are two main pillars contributing to Education of our Society – Schools and Parents; however it has been mentioned that parents no longer play a role as important as it has been in the past. The value system has changed, people are turning more towards materialism. Unhealthy competition, trying to have best grades, choosing University because it “would” bring a Job which pays more money than some other – all such attitudes and values are being promoted through the modern educational system. Goal has become more important than its purpose.
However, there are still people within the system who are doing and trying their best.
(Slovenia has been increasingly exposed to the influence of the “Industrialized, Western way of thinking” since the collapse of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1990; 22 years ago. Before 1990 Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, which had a self-managed economic system – mainly self-sufficient and self- sustaining)
The event was a pleasant experience and a real joy to see people engaging in meaningful discussion.
First Screening at Schumacher College, Devon, April 2012
LEARNING vs EDUCATION
As long as we are not aware
of the ritual through which school shapes
the progressive consumer – the economy’s
major resource – we cannot break the spell
of this economy and shape a new one.
by Ivan Illich
After screening the documentary “Schooling the World” (directed by Carol Black, link to the trailer: schoolingtheworld.org/), I facilitated and filmed a conversation with postgraduate students of Holistic Science and Economics for Transition at Schumacher College in April 2012 (Juliana Schneider, Ruth Potts, Megaia Beyer, Adriana Puech, Chris Tittle, Denise Curi and Brigita Laykovich).
The equipment was basic, hence the quality of this first video I have made. Captured stories, related to education that you can hear are based on personal experience of 6 inspiring individuas.
Many relevant issues have been raised; such as systemic problems of education, standardization, indoctrination and institutionalization of education, disconnection from reality, from nature and from surrounding environment, abstraction, education becoming a business, needs for alternatives (example of Efecto Mariposa and principles of Steiner School), reconnection to the land and a need for a more holistic way of learning, which gives equal opportunities to all. Most important; creating an environment for individuals where they can learn from each other, from the land, surrounding environment, from their ancestors and to further develop their own, unique way of thinking, doing and being.
To start changing the way people think, we first have to engage in the process of awareness rising among educators and those connected to education; either students, parents or policy makers. This video is a first step of inquiry, which will further develop through the process of dissertation.Backgrounds of people involved in the conversation about challenges of education:
Ruth Potts, current MA student on Masters of Economics for Transition, from UK
an activist, writer, nature and art lover, an absolutely inspiring being;
Ruth Potts is a co-founder of the radical collective, Bread, Print & Roses, and is completing an MA in Economics for Transition at Schumacher College. She was the Campaign Manager of the Great Transition at nef (the new economics foundation) from 2009-2011 where she co-developed a new model of campaigning designed to kick-start the decade -long transition to a new economy. Before that, she did time in the press offices of nef, Amnesty International UK and Christian Aid, and in public affairs for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. She is a Trustee of the Pioneer Health Foundation
Adriana Puech, current MSc student on Masters of Holistic Science, Colombian FrenchBorn in Bogotá, Colombia in 1980, Adriana is an Environmental Engineering graduate of la Universidad de los Andes and l’Ecole de Mines de Nantes in France. She has worked in olfactory research in Veolia Water, in waste water treatment consulting in GES in France and Spain and in adaptation to climate change at UNICEF for a joint program of the United Nations. Fond of improvisation and the depths of sound, Adriana has been part of various choirs as a soprano soloist and regularly performs in jazz groups and as a singer of soul.
In 2010 she co-founded and continues to co-direct Efecto Mariposa ,a non profit organization that aims to awake new ethics based on the wonders of life through deep ecology and holistic education. Passionate about the interconnectedness of the challenges we face, she is currently completing the MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College.
Adriana is a life-long lover of landscapes, music and beauty, with a particular interest in the invisible dynamics that touches, connects and transforms us.
Chris Tittle, current MA student on Masters of Economics for Transition, from US
an adventurous traveler with an open heart and brilliant mind, used to work as an educator in Japan, is currently on the road traveling to meet his fiancee in Nepal. Link to his blog… oaktreegarden.wordpress.com/.
Megaia De Beyer, current MSc student on Masters of Holistic Science, South Africa
at the moment busy setting up a transition tow outside Cape Town with Joe Stoedgel and Charles Hutchinson. (http://ourendlessriver.wordpress.com/category/megan-de-beyer/)
Megaia runs parenting workshops Internationally, work with all forms of group facilitation and raise ecological awareness and has written many articles on related topics. She participated in numerous international conferences on psychotherapy and holistic healing and she’s also an amazing Yoga teacher. (iafrica.com/article/70573.html)
Juliana Schneider, current MSc student on Masters of Holistic Science from Brazil
Currently a master’s support coordinator at Schumacher College, Experienced in communication and sustainability in non profit organizations and the private sector (Co-Director at Universo TXT), specialized in trans-formative development, Eco-Facilitation. Juliana’s an amazing person, full of life, joy, creativity and ability to generate a positive atmosphere.
Denise Curi, hold a BA in Chemistry · PhD in Science – Organic Chemistry, from Brazil
Denise used work as a teacher, a coordinator for the project Education for Sustainability; Supervisor in projects for introducing high school students to scientific research and is currently working as volunteer coordinator at Schumacher College. She is person with great passion for life itself in all its forms.
This is a first iteration of the research process I have chosen for my final postgraduate project.