"There are too many people here...on this planet. Seven billion headed to nine. We have to stop population and economic growth." That's how Wes Jackson, farmer, founder of the Land Institute, and winner of the Right Livelihood Award, began his presentation to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Farming for the Future conference.
Jackson argues that "We" the industrial people need to take "a long view." "We" have to examine our past and realize our limits. "We" have to account for intergenerational justice and initiate a serious reduction of the afflictions that industrial humans have created and perpetuated. Overpopulation. Soil overuse and abuse. And amazingly, Jackson accused those present - farmers, sellers, buyers, eaters, and supporters - of not doing enough to stop the "terrible truths" that surround us: agriculture, massive deforestation for iron and bronze, coal, oil, natural gas, industrial expansion, and on and on.
Will we "efficiency" our way out of these problems? Not if we are tied to economic growth. This is known as Jevon's Paradox, named after W. Stanley Jevons who wrote in The Coal Question, “It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth." The savings used from one area will be allotted to another area where it will expand. Jackson argues that if we were serious about sustainability, then we would plug the mine and the well.
How can we end economic growth? Do we need to turn a lot of these things off? Is there a calling to what Herbert Marcuse called "The Great Refusal" and more of us refuse to participate?
Jackson says that we have to answer questions that haven't even been asked yet. Like Darwin who answered the question of how life works, we need to ask a similar questions: How do we live sustainably? What are the other questions we need to start asking?
You can listen to the whole speech here.