Tag: Paul Ehrlich

Kareiva: Consumption, Competitiveness and Conformity

Dasgupta, P.S., P.R. Ehrlich. 2013. Pervasive externalities at the population, consumption, and environment nexus. Science 2013 Apr 19; 340(6130):324-8 doi: 10.1126/science.1224664

I give a lot of public talks about the future of conservation and always do my best to paint an optimistic vision.

Inevitably, someone in the audience raises their hand and says, isn’t the real problem consumption and aren’t we doomed to an environmental collapse because of our patterns of ever-expanding consumption? I always admit consumption is a big issue, emphasizing it is not that we consume, but what we consume, and I warn about that preaching about consumption can be a turn-off. But I have not been able to frame a really strong answer.

In a recent article, Partha Dasgupta and Paul Ehrlich give me the seeds of a stronger argument.

They emphasize that two of the strongest universal human traits are competitiveness and conformity. We conform because we strive to find ways to relate to one another — after all we are a tribal species. And competitive consumption has been noted in almost all societies — rich and poor.

It is just that as wealth accumulates, the global impact of competitive consumption also grows. All true. But those same traits can also provide the momentum for change and improvement. Just think of the students at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, who chided Chinese couples to not serve shark fin soup at their weddings (a traditional symbol of prosperity) with the poster campaign that labeled shark fin soup as “so 80’s.”

Full Article

Population Bomb or Population Crash: A Tale of Two Worlds

One of my biggest frustrations with the press in this online era is the pressure to pick one simple story to describe an incredibly complex issue.

An ongoing story line for journalists and bloggers is how rapid population growth is posing numerous problems for society and the environment. This story line has been around a while: it traces its modern form to Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, and it has been critiqued for just as long.

In the last several years, there has been a wave of stories written from the opposite perspective. The rate of population growth is actually falling, and Europe and Japan are actually losing population, so the real problem is the population crash.

This is a catchy story, because it fits into the “everything you thought you knew about X was wrong!” category.

Jeff Wise, in a piece in Slate, carried this story line to its absurd conclusion, suggesting (I hope somewhat in jest) that if this trend of falling birth rate continued, “in the long term—on the order of centuries—we could be looking at the literal extinction of humanity.”

Both stories have an element of truth.

More to the point, each story is true for one of two very different worlds.

Full Article


Featured Content

Osprey Cam: Watch Our Wild Neighbors
Watch the ospreys live 24/7 as they nest and raise their young -- and learn more about these fascinating birds from our scientist.

What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications at the Conservancy, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

Editors’ Choice

Where Have The Monarchs Gone?
Monarch butterflies are disappearing. What's going on? Is there anything we can do about it?

North America's Greatest Bird Spectacle?
The Platte River is alive with 500,000 sandhill cranes. Learn how you can catch the action--even from your computer.

The Strangest Wildlife Rescue?
Meet the animal that was saved from extinction because someone broke a wildlife law.

Latest Tweets from @nature_brains

Categories