26th February 2012. So I have decided to start a blog. It took a while, and I’m still not sure what the purpose is. Late last year, when my book, Our Dying Planet, was about to be published, a blog was suggested as one way of giving it visibility. However, at the time I did not think I had the time, nor much to say. Time will tell if I was right, but now as I talk to people about the book and the environmental crisis I find I DO have things to say. Whether my rants are important is entirely another matter. Still, here goes.
Why stumbling and why New Atlantis?
If you are one of the five people who has read Our Dying Planet, you will know that New Atlantis is my name for a desirable future that I believe we can still get to – one that provides for a sophisticated civilization, with plenty of the toys we like to have, as well as those things that make our lives worth living, like rock concerts, hockey games, opera, Monet, Jackson Pollock, silly reality shows on TV, South Australian merlot and the sound of Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It’s a future in which we live in harmony with a sustainable environment that provides those other things we need – food, water, sunsets, butterflies and orchids, a quiet paddle across a misted lake at dawn, kite surfing off Makaha, and perhaps a dive on a coral reef. New Atlantis is a world in which we use our technical expertise, our social skills, and our creative genius to build our sophisticated culture, while controlling our birth rates as well as our mortality to ensure we do not overtax our planet by our sheer numbers, all while stewarding the natural world around us, knowing that as part of the biosphere we benefit in untold ways when the biosphere thrives.
And why stumbling? Because that is what we are doing at present. Indeed, there are many days in which I fear that we are stumbling about and moving in every direction except towards New Atlantis. So, put together, this blog will be about our progress, or lack of same, in solving the biggest environmental crisis humanity has faced since the Pleistocene. Unlike the Pleistocene (or the more or less trivial Little Ice Age in northern latitudes during the 16th to 19th centuries), our environmental crisis is largely of our own doing. We are putting too many demands upon the Earth’s capacity to serve our needs, partly by taking too much, partly by taking too quickly, partly by loading up the natural world with waste products that it cannot assimilate, or can only assimilate more slowly. I will talk about the good news, because there is some and it deserves to be celebrated, and I’ll talk about the bad news, which is all to frequent. I’ll talk about local issues here in Muskoka, a tiny jewel in the heart of Canada, and I’ll talk about national and international issues. I’ll try to keep close to the ecology that I profess to know something about (that was the first pun; I promise to limit them), but I won’t be afraid to wade into politics, energy policy and international relations – things about which I know little, though perhaps enough. And either I will say things worth reading or I won’t – in the former case lies that strange fame that comes with producing a popular blog, and in the latter the wonderfully sad anomie of pouring words onto the Web where they float eternally, unread except by Google and Bing.