(Published in GralsWelt 73/2012)
For decades we have been hearing warnings that our world economy can no longer rely on further material growth as it has up to now; that politicians must finally begin to think broadly and globally; and above all that we humans have to change our consciousness, our attitude to nature and our behavior. Now you can already hear warnings from the "apocalyptic horsemen". Right?
More and more people are realizing that world problems are increasing from year to year, which makes their solutions more and more difficult. There is even some evidence that our scientific and technical civilization has gone astray, leading to a catastrophe.
But so far everything has gone quite well: the economy works, if you have enough money you can buy what you want, politicians are optimists because of their jobs, and the future forecasts of economists are not all that bad. So better not to worry?
A worrying inventory
Let's look at the key facts that still worry many people:
• The world population of now over 7 billion people continues to grow.
• The environmental problems could reach fatal proportions.
• Climate change can no longer be denied, even if the causes are disputed. This may cause the deserts to expand.
• The sea level is rising and threatens to flood islands and coasts. Many big cities are on the coasts![i]
• The spread of deserts, rising sea levels and other environmental damage could make large areas uninhabitable. Many millions of climate migrants would have to find new places to live.
• Capricious weather conditions are becoming more frequent and more violent.
• Animal and plant species are becoming extinct to an almost unimaginable extent.
• The number of poor is increasing; even in developed countries like the USA.
• Millions of people in developing countries are under-nourished and medically underserved.
• The agriculturally usable areas can hardly be expanded. On the contrary: they tend to decrease due to erosion, drought, overuse, increasing space requirements for roads, buildings, industrial plants, etc.
• To what extent the yields of agriculture can be increased through improved cultivation methods, irrigation, fertilization, genetic engineering, pesticides, etc. is controversial. In any case, the use of food crops for the production of biofuel contributes to the food shortage. The deforestation of the tropical rainforests must be stopped.
• In many regions - not only in developing countries - there is a threat of water scarcity.
• Important raw materials and energy sources - first and foremost oil - are likely to become scarce in the near future.
• Globalization has created the toughest competition of all time. Low-wage countries often care little about environmental protection and certainly not about social standards; they compete with the developed countries and endanger jobs and prosperity in the industrialized countries.
The solution to the world's problems is inextricably linked with the usability of the available resources, the energy problem and population growth.
“The world has a problem that can be summed up in three words: hot, flat and crowded. That is, global warming, the astounding increase in the middle class around the world, and rapid population growth are all working together in ways that could make our planet dangerously unstable. The interaction of these three factors puts a strain on the energy supply, accelerates the extinction of plants and animals, increases energy poverty, strengthens petrodictatorships and exacerbates climate change. "
Thomas L. Friedman (3, p. 14).
The limits of growth
Since 1972 there has been talk of the "limits to growth" (7), which have already been shown several times in the development of mankind. Every advance in human civilization has been associated with making better use of existing resources or developing new ones; thus with an increase in the "growth limits". This can be shown on the basis of important periods in human history:
• The making of tools from wood, horn, bone or stone began more than three million years ago. A decisive step in the development of mankind. It is true that animals already use tools; however, the production of tools in order to make other tools with them is considered a typical human achievement.
• Primitive humans have been using fire for 1.5 million years.
• Overhunting of large animals began in Europe about 40,000 years ago, in America not much later (“Pleistocene overkill”).
• Agriculture and animal husbandry: The “Neolithic Revolution” 12,000 years ago with its new type of food production allowed greater population densities. The intensive agriculture brought with it a constant relocation of the settlements; After the soil had recovered, the residents returned to the original settlement areas.
• Metal processing: With copper or bronze, but especially with iron, much more has been possible for around five millennia than with the tools and materials of the Stone Age. However, the overexploitation began with that. Because in the long term - for metal extraction and shipbuilding, for example - more wood was used than could grow back. The ore deposits also had to be exhausted - in what was then still a very distant future.
• High civilization: Through organized cooperation, for example in the irrigation of the fields, the existing resources have been better used and more developed for 5,000 years; a prerequisite for the emergence of cities and states. This was when the deforestation of the forests and the overexploitation or destruction of the soil began. The countries in which agriculture was invented are today largely deserts or arid zones.
• The domestication of the horse in the 3rd millennium BC initiated a cultural and historical revolution. In the civil and military sectors, the horse was soon indispensable as a carrying, pulling or riding animal. Without horses (or camels?), There would probably have been no great empires. Up until the 19th century, the fastest way for a person to get around was on the back of a galloping horse.
• The first great empires emerged in antiquity (for example Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Chinese, Indians, Mongols). When their own resources were insufficient, they conquered foreign countries and exploited them.
• Colonialism: Further developed technology and superior scientific knowledge made the journeys of the great seafarers possible in the 15th and 16th centuries and in the 17th century heralded the beginning of a scientific and technical civilization that spread worldwide.
• Coal: After centuries of overexploitation of the forests for metal processing, shipbuilding, energy generation, etc., the use of coal was the prerequisite for the industrial revolution that began in the 18th century.
• Oil and natural gas: In the 20th century, coal lost its importance. Oil and gas became more and more important.
• Alternative energies: In the 21st century, fossil fuels, the “fuels from hell” (3, p. 49), must be replaced by nature-friendly, renewable energy sources. If that doesn't happen quickly enough, our civilization could get into trouble.
If you follow the famous historian Ian Morris, civilizations have reached the limits of growth several times in the past. In the first century, the Roman Empire came to such a limit that it could not cross and then collapsed. China felt the same way a millennium later. Accordingly, there were limits to the development possibilities of an agricultural empire. These could only be broken if the stored energy of the fossil raw materials was used. (9, p. 536).
"We are an oppressive burden on the world, and resources are barely sufficient; everywhere there is lamentation because needs are growing even though nature can already no longer support us. We must face the fact that disease and hunger, war and flood, are barriers to an excessively growing humanity."
Quintus Septimus Tertullianus (160-225)
There are also growth limits for our scientific and technical civilization, but they are difficult to calculate. We will have to recognize them at the latest when we encounter them with catastrophic consequences.
Energy consumption and standard of living
As far as we can trace back human civilization, the standard of living and civilizational progress were linked to the use of resources and especially to energy consumption.
By the way, human civilization behaved in the same way as living nature: higher forms of life, such as warm-blooded birds and mammals, require significantly more energy per gram of body mass than, for example, fish or reptiles!
The energy requirement is an indicator of the degree of evolution in human societies[ii]. In parallel to the slowly, then exponentially increasing energy consumption, the world population has also increased:
Energy consumption in western countries Time Culture World population Calorie per million head and day 14000 B.C. Neolithic approx. 0.2 4,000 4000 B.C. Agriculture ca. 20 10.000 2000 B.C. Metalworking ca. 250 17.000 1 A.D. Advanced civilizations ca. 300 31.000 400 n. Chr. migration of peoples ca. 200 28.000 700 n. Chr. Chaos in Europe ca. 250 25.000 1200 A.D. High Middle Ages ca. 400 26.000 1600 A.D. Baroque Age ca. 500 29.000 1800 A.D. Colonial Age 978 38.000 1900 A.D. Industrial Age 1,650 92,000 2000 A.D. Globalization 6,158 230,000 (2050 A.D. World peace order? 9,100? ? )
Up until the colonial era, the standard of living and energy consumption in the advanced cultures were not very different around the world. It was only with industrialization that the use of energy increased dramatically in the industrialized countries and the remaining countries lagged behind.
At present, energy consumption per capita in developing and emerging countries is still lower than in industrialized countries. But the populous emerging countries (e.g. Brazil, China, India) are catching up. It is to be expected that in a few decades' time they will not consume much less energy per inhabitant than the industrialized countries currently do.
This is where the laws of large numbers come into play, as David Douglas, Vice President of "Sun Microsystems" calculated. What would happen, he asked, when another billion people join and we give everyone a 60 watt lightbulb:
“The individual light bulb doesn't weigh much: around 20 grams with packaging. But a billion of them weigh 20,000 tons, as much as 15,000 Toyota Prius. Now let's turn on the lights. If they all burn at the same time, they will need 60,000 megawatts. Fortunately, the bulbs are only switched on for four hours a day, so only about 10,000 megawatts are needed at any given time. ”It looks like we need a good 20 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants just to give the next billion people the light can turn on. (3, p. 47).[iii]
This line of development - increasing energy consumption and rapidly growing population - is putting the world economy under increasing pressure. In the opinion of ecologists, our civilization has exceeded the capabilities of planet earth for decades, and in the 21st century the situation will be dramatic.
By the middle of the century at the latest, a decision would have to be made as to whether mankind can tread new, as yet unknown paths or whether the world economy has to get into turbulence. Ian Morris says:
“Like the Romans in the period of decline of their empire, we are currently coming up against a ceiling that needs to be broken through. Either we create a transformation that far surpasses the industrial revolution and will solve most of our problems, or we stumble into a disaster unlike any before. Then the apocalyptic riders will gallop off again: climate change, famine, epidemics, migration flows, collapsing state systems ”. (1)
The dogma of economic growth
Although the world economy has grown in the last few decades, hunger and poverty in our world have increased, not decreased. Even in industrialized countries like the US, the future prospects for low-income and disadvantaged people are not bright, and the gap between rich and poor is growing all the time. Mismanagement, corruption, (organized) crime, over-indebted states, bad governments, a world financial system that has gotten out of control and especially the explosive increase in population are blamed for this.
For example, Africa had a population of around 200 million at the end of World War II and was not very densely populated. According to estimates at the time, this resource-rich continent had a good economic future ahead of it.
Today over a billion people live there, civil wars flare up, states fall apart, many people go hungry and have little medical care; the population continues to grow and increases by a good 20 million per year. According to this, in addition to what is already missing today, food, clothing, kindergartens, schools, hospitals, apartments and jobs have to be provided for a further 20 million people in Africa every year.[iv]
In other parts of the world - for example in India and some countries in South America - the situation is hardly less dramatic. Overall, the world population is growing by almost 60 million annually (approx. 160,000 per day). -
At the moment, those responsible in politics and business have only one answer to almost all world problems: further economic growth. This growth seems essential because humanity is growing and more and more people need more and more. But where should the required food, raw materials and industrial products, as well as the energy required for them, come from?
For the year 2050 the UN forecasts a world population of 9.1 billion people and the population maximum will be reached in the year 2100 with 10.1 billion people. A more optimistic forecast expects the maximum to be around 9 billion as early as 2060 or 2070. After that, the world population should slowly shrink in both models. (2)
Is our blue planet powerful enough to adequately supply these masses of people?
The answer of many ecologists is a resounding no! (see. "How much we overload our earth", Under" Ecology "). However, the estimates for the maximum carrying capacity of the earth are far apart: they range between a billion and 1,000 billion people! If the extremes are disregarded, the average range is 7.7 to 10 billion, which - coincidence or not - corresponds to the range in which the UN projections for the next 50 years can be found. (4, p. 219).
So those responsible in business and politics can currently still find excuses to ignore the limits of growth! However, even optimists who believe the earth could feed 10 billion or more billion people have to admit that this would only be possible with a standard of living like India's today; but by no means with a standard of living like in the USA!
What can we do?
There are numerous recommendations aimed at averting the collapse of the global economy:
• Natural agriculture
• No overfishing of the seas
• Natural energy generation and energy saving. Ian Morris says: “There is nothing to suggest that we will reduce our energy consumption before a catastrophe forces us to do so - which means that we can only escape the sellout of resources, the poisoning of the planet, or both, if we tap into clean, i.e. renewable, energy sources."(9, p. 586).
• Can new, previously untapped energy sources be found? Various, realistic and seemingly unrealistic possibilities are currently being investigated.[v]
• Sufficiently large, natural habitats to preserve biodiversity. The tropical rainforests are of particular importance. They are carbon stores and contain the greatest diversity of living things.
• Circular economy that cleans and reuses all residues as far as possible in order to better protect the already overloaded environment.
• Decoupling economic growth from energy consumption. Economic growth is only justifiable in underdeveloped countries with people suffering from hunger. A reduction in consumption would be necessary in the rich countries.
• End of environmental poisoning from waste, exhaust gases, sewage, chemicals, medicines.
• More careful and as sustainable as possible use of resources. End of the destruction of nature in the extraction of raw materials. Canada is currently providing an extreme example of the wrong approach: large areas of nature are being ruined in the energy-guzzling oil production from oil sands.
• Modesty (not poorness) in personal life.
• Reduction in population growth. So far, all efforts have more or less failed. It is hoped that as the standard of living and education improve, especially among girls, the problem will be resolved. But that will take a generation or several. -
All of these proposals are within the framework of previous thinking and scientific knowledge as well as the technical and organizational measures that already exist or are yet to be developed. It is also controversial whether such reforms can be implemented by democratic means or whether - as some believe - an “eco-dictatorship” is required to do so. (See. "Do we need the eco-dictatorship?", Here under" Economy and Social Affairs ").
Or maybe a completely different, completely new approach is needed.
“For the first time in human history, it is about real existential questions. But science disagrees and politicians at a loss. Can, by and large, continue as before, and if so, for how much longer? Are substantial adaptation measures necessary to significantly changed living conditions, and if so: what should they look like? Can humanity only be saved by a radical turnaround? Or should she enjoy life as long as possible, since nothing can be saved anyway? All these problems are argued with the same passion today as in the Middle Ages over heaven and angels, hell and devil. " Meinhard Miegel
Is our approach wrong from the start?
If you follow esotericists, clairvoyants, artists, mystics, visionaries, there are two fundamentally different ways to understand nature:
1. The scientific-mathematical approach with his analytical worldview. This path of knowledge dominates today almost unchallenged and determines our earthly life and thinking. In this modern way, man wants to dominate nature, make it usable for himself and redesign it according to his needs.
2. One spiritual-spiritual-symbolic path of knowledge. The worldview of the sciences is contrasted with a perceptually sensed, holistic, spiritual worldview. On this spiritual path man wants to fit into nature and its laws, i.e. not rape nature but adapt to it.
Viewed in this way, the non-natural, technical thinking that has led us into world problems would not be suitable for solving these problems. Our materialistic path, which has been practiced for thousands of years, would therefore be wrong from the outset.
But what should the new, the often invoked “transformation” look like? The romantic "back to nature" has long been blocked.
In the Grail World 67/2011, page 40 “Living with the Other World”, for example, a completely different approach to nature was presented, which is currently only feasible for very few: the cooperation with the natural beings and spiritual human will and feeling. If one considers the thoughts put forward in this article, for which statements from the Grail Message of Abd-ru-shin also speak, to be decisive, then we are faced with an enormous problem. Because we do not know any alternatives to the scientific and technical worldview. If individuals can see more clearly, make contact with natural beings, and advise us in the right direction, it will be difficult or even impossible to convince the majority and get them to act accordingly. Not to mention the possibilities for practical implementation.
Even a social discussion on this “occult” topic would be extremely problematic. For many natural scientists, esoteric approaches are a conglomerate of misunderstandings and superstitions, while the majority of esoteric, mystic and sensitive people are unlikely to think scientifically. Not a good basis for a social consensus as a prerequisite for the required transformation.
In spite of everything, may we remain optimistic and, in regard to world problems, how Thomas L. Friedman it is formulated in his book "What to do", "See a series of great opportunities in the disguise of unsolvable problems"? That trigger a catharsis that forces new paths on us?
For the foreseeable future, we will probably continue to move on the known tracks, with some ecological corrections, the necessity of which everyone can see. But the hope remains from experience that we humans were always able to learn when the circumstances forced us to, so that our self-centered thinking hopefully does not necessarily have to lead to a world catastrophe. -
(1) Der Spiegel, 25/2011, page 133.
(2) The mirror. 44/2011, page 144.
(3) Friedman Thomas L., “What is to be done”, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 2009.
(4) Same as Michael et al., Life Counts, Berliner Taschenbuch Verlag, 2002.
(5) Hagl Siegfried, The Apocalypse as Hope, Droemer-Knaur, Munich 1984.
(6) Lomborg Björn, Apocalypse No !, zu Klampen, Lüneburg 2002.
(7) Meadows Dennis, The Limits to Growth, DVA 1972.
(8) Miegel Meinhard, Exit, Ullstein, Berlin 2011.
(9) Morris Ian, Who rules the world ?, Campus, Frankfurt 2011.
(10) Stiglitz Joseph, the opportunities of globalization, Siedler, Munich 2006.
(11) Stiglitz Joseph, Die Schatten der Globalisierung, Goldmann, Munich 2004.
(12) Weizsäcker Ernst Ulrich, factor five, Droemer, Munich 2010.
Growth of population:
[i] If the sea level rises by 1 meter, 30 million people would allegedly have to be unsettled in Bangladesh alone; 300 million worldwide!
[ii] Ian Morris uses in his interesting book “Who rules the world?” four indicators for the degree of civilization: energy yield, social organization, military power and information technology. For the sake of simplicity, we will be satisfied with the most important indicator: energy.
[iii] And what about wind power plants? Large wind power plants currently have peak outputs of 10 megawatts (MW). In inland you can expect 2,000 full-load hours per year (approx. 25 percent of the time). Instead of the 20 coal-fired power plants, around 4,000 wind turbines would be required. Apart from the need to store excess wind power for times of calm.
[iv] For comparison: the GDR had 17 million inhabitants at the time of reunification in 1989 and was in much better condition than most African countries. After more than 20 years of intensive development and financial aid, the gap between the new federal states and western Germany has not yet been fully made up.
[v] For example in report E 5001–15 “Future Technologies” from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Lately there is even talk of “space energy” or “neutrino energy”.