Longtime readers who Eugene Bible, who hosts This Sustainable Life: Solve for Nature, a sibling podcast to mine. He lives in Hawaii. A while ago he shared a view that helps me simplify and clarify how we affect nature.
He suggested viewing Hawaii as a microcosm of Earth. Do you have a proposal you think would help Earth? Ask if it would work with Hawaii.
[EDIT: I had planned to write this post for months. I didn’t know that historic wildfires were beginning to ravage Hawaii as I was writing. The day after I posted, President Biden issued a federal major disaster declaration as 53 people have died from the Maui wildfires, governor says, and historic Lahaina has burned down. We can reverse this trend, which is why I run my workshops and am writing my book to start a movement based on action based on integrity, experience, character, honor, and taking responsibility, not pointing fingers.]
For example, I’ve heard people say more people is always better. They say more people can solve more problems. They create more resources and so on. They believe Earth could support well over ten billion people, maybe a hundred billion or a trillion. Any time we’d run out of a resource, we’d create new sources, find a replacement, or whatever it took to keep going. Life would keep improving with more people.
If Earth had a trillion people and Hawaii had the proportion of the population as it does today, it would hold five billion people. That is, more than half of all people alive today would live on the Hawaiian islands. They’re pretty small. The people wouldn’t fit standing shoulder to shoulder. There’s not enough fresh water. Lots of problems.
Let’s say in principle you built taller and taller buildings, keeping extending what engineering enabled, desalinating sea water, and overcoming every limit as we hit it. We’d no longer have what we think of as Hawaii. All mile-high buildings would mean few people could see the ocean. They’d probably build them past the beach so there would be no surfing.
Would we have benefited from putting so many people there? I believe we’d hit limits we couldn’t get past. I believe we’ve already past those limits, artificially maintaining ourselves unsustainably at the cost of suffering in future generations and poor people today.
We’ve already created islands like this:
Do we need to create more? Do we want the whole planet looking like this:
How about nuclear power? How many reactors do we want on Hawaii?
How many factory farms should we house on Hawaii? If none, why should we allow them anyplace else?
How about solar arrays and wind farms on land or off-shore? Considering that people lived on Hawaii for centuries without either, living longer than our culture (saying in began with the Industrial Revolution), why do we need any? What would they do to wildlife? How much of Hawaii and its shoreline should we cover up? What will we do with the waste when we have to replace the equipment every twenty years?
How about plastic pollution? How much plastic should we allow onto the Hawaiian islands, knowing plastic recycling doesn’t work and no sanitation system can capture it all so much of it will end up on streets, then in the ocean?
You can come up with many similar situations to consider, I’m sure.
If we can’t answer these questions for Hawaii, why do we think we can for the rest of the planet? Might we be hoping for the best despite knowing we’re just ignoring the results of our actions? Since the Earth is so big are we missing (or willfully ignoring) how much we could pollute without it affecting us immediately, but that now all pollution harms us immediately?
Think of Hawaii for your potential solution: would it work there? I suggest the few do.
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