Box 61, Item 1781: Notes and cutting on environment ; Draft of The age of (the realisation of) limits?

Title

Box 61, Item 1781: Notes and cutting on environment ; Draft of The age of (the realisation of) limits?

Subject

Various handwritten notes on scrap paper, and cutting from Weisskopf WA (1971) Alienation and economics, Dutton. Includes typescript draft of The age of (the realisation of) limits? by Richard Sylvan, with handwritten emendations, undated.

Description

Verso of scrap paper not digitised. Cutting redacted from access file (PDF) due to copyright restrictions.

Title in collection finding aid: Writings of RS & VP on environment.

Source

The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 61, Item 1781

Contributor

This item was identified for digitisation at the request of The University of Queensland's 2020 Fryer Library Fellow, Dr. N.A.J. Taylor.

Rights

For all enquiries about this work, please contact the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.

Format

[22] leaves. 14.14 MB.

Type

Manuscript

Coverage

Australian National Univeristy - Second Bookcase - Bottom Shelf

Text

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The following has been redacted from access file (PDF) due to copyright restrictions.
Cutting (photocopy), two pages (title page and page 125) from Weisskopf WA (1971) Alienation
and economics, Dutton. (2 leaves)

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THE AGE OF [THE REALISATION OF] LIMITS?

1.

Growth versus Limits.

A phenomenon of the contemporary ags. is increasing

awareness of limits, espeO^ally material limits, due to resource and energy
limitations.

Hence, in part, the limits to growth (in part because there are

other major elements in models which reveal limits to growth:

pollution, etc.).

population,

The awareness is not a new one - the ancient Greeks put con­

siderable emphasis on limits - but was largely lost sight of in modern times

until recently.
Although some material limitations are now widely reetrgjinised, in Europe and

/

North America^ at any rate, social limits are far from widely acknowledged, and

there is the idea that in the spiriual sphere there are no limitations.

Thus, for

example, Perelman:
The traditional social sphere is ... transcendental and spiritual.

i _• x..-

-- i -----~

‘-v- -ewards

the physical and social limits of the economic world (p.394)."

---- A similar open-fredte«ee-«Mte^e<-'in-the-spiritual sphere thenyls presented by

T. Haydon (Social Alternatives ~1980).

2.

The failure to realist, limits is a basic fault common to Marxism (Barman

p.150) and capitalism.

further down, p.399, >6 relies on false dichotomy between ’religious influence
and secular economic power’ which are said to be * complementary, when one grows,
the other declines. Also the suggestion that the£e are
social limits^the

’soft paradigm’ is not explained p.415?

to

W2- -M

/
Disappearing species and vanishing rainforests:

philosophical roots of the problem. *

wrong directions, and the

Both rainforests and species are

disappearing at an unprecedented and accelerating rate.

becoming

a vastly poorer place ecologically.

of great value is being lost or destroyed.

The world is fast

Which is really bad:

for much

Thus far there is substantial

agreement among a wide range of groups and organisations seriously concerned
about vanishing rainforests, disappearing species, and the ecological impover­

ishment of the earth.

But penetrate a little further - ask for the causes of

this situation, for what should be done about it, why value is being diminished
in this way, and why there is any cause for concern - and the agreement begins

to evaporate.

Probe a little more widely, bringing in assessment of economists,

foresters, and politicians, and spokesmen for the elites of ’’developing nations ,

and agreement ceases, and substantial disagreement sets in.
The phenomena of disappearing life, animal and plant, creature and

species and ecosystem, are well-enough documented (if not well-enough knowin,
in several senses) for a sketch of the background to serve.

§2.

Background:

the rates of loss of species and disappearance of rainforest.

First, plants:the extinction of each species of plant is, on the average,
accompanied by a ten-|to thirty-fold loss amongst other organisms.

Therefore, the diversity of plants i£ the underlying factor
controlling the diversity of other organisms and thus the

stability of the world ecosystem ... nearly two-thirds of the
world’s plant species (at least 150,000species of flowering

plants) appear to be tropical in distribution.

... Considering

that there will be no undisturbed tropical lowland forest any­

where in the world within twenty-five years, except for relatively

small reserves,

... it is certain that many of them will become

extinct during our lifetime.

To illustrate this point we need

only mention that the FAO estimates that about ten million

The paper was first sketched for Earthday 1980.
The topic is of considerable
relevance to Earthday X, for it concerns the ecological impoverishment of the
earth (which - despite Earthday - continues to accelerate) and reasons for it
especially the underlying philosophical and ideological grounds. (In the
latter connection the US has, despite its prominence in ecological concern
and in implementing things environmental, much to answer for.)

2.

hectares [1979 estimates are 16 million hectares] of tropical

forest are being felled annually.

... One supposes ... that

at least a third of [tropical plant species] will be threatened

or extinct by the end of the century, with the first major wave

of extinction in South-east Asia and New Guine^ ...

(Raven 1976).

Second, animals:It has been estimated that if current Saends in massive forest
clearing continue, about one-third of the species now found in
humid tropical forests - perhaps 15 to 20Z of all species on

earth - will be extinct only 20 years from now, and many more
in the ensuing decades.

This would be one of the greatest

impoverishments ever suffered.

|x----- —Third, rainforests:Every minute 30 hectares (about 75 acres) of the world s rain—
^forests are being destroyed.

The issue can be sharply p^roc^ssed by considering the world’s tropical
rainforests, where major Looweo are occurring.
The tropical moist forests are believed to contain between 2
and 5 million species from 2/5ths to ^planet’s total .

Thus i£ 1 million species are lost by the end of the twentieth century, the
I result would be the extinction of more than - perhaps much more than - l/5th

of the world’s

.

(Myers, p.4 & p.113).

Other estimates differ somewhat, but all serve to make the main point;
staggering ecological and biological losses and impoverishment.

§2.

Reasons and causes^ actdon and fataldsm (ineu^'i/Lity).

be disentangled.

There is much to

There are reasons for and against destroying rain-forests

and their dependent species, reasons which divide into shallower reasons and
deeper reasons.
The familiar shallow reasons against are those that answer back in one
way or another to human interests, and concern the pros and cons of rain­

forests as

sources of genetic diversity and gene pools, as natural biological

sources for medicines, as
uftkt

catchment protection areas, and to prevent

and stop flooding, as buffer and quarantine zones, as refuges for

plants and animals.
The inadequacy of these sorts of reasons is not difficult to discern;

and the strategies they lead to would only sewe- bits and pieces here and
there.

,

-i -i

_

a_i_

_

Furthermore the onus is^wrong way round too, as well as the jacamng j

not reaching to any social depth.

What needs to say here is:

Why is all

3.

this happening?

What justifies it?

The onus is on those who try to proceed,

who are doing the doing, interfering destruction and demise.
The shallower reasons for tend to rely on the character of humans,
their attitudes and aspirations and now rather inevitable dominance.
causes fail.

Ini^t^l shallow explanatory theses to be critically

assessed and rejected include these:

1.

The overpopulation argument:

’unless the population explosion can be

damped down, wildlife will not survive’

2.

Economistic arguments:

(Webb, 1979).

forest destruction will alleviate poverty and

provides jobs and foreign revenue.

Rather, as forester Westoby recently explained,

’the unpalatable fact, for

foresters, is that forest industries have done very little to raise the

welfare of the urban and rural masses in developing countries;

instead

resources and wealth have been transferred to the rich industrialised
countries’

(or at least certain parts of their populations).

Westoby, who perhaps optimistically sees elements of change in the
world, went on to explain, colourfully, somewhat deeper issues:

of policies of self-reliance,

’The growth

the struggles on every continent by the

dispossessed and hungry millions to win a fair and decent life, to break out

of the power of landlords, of moneylenders, of the agents of foreign capital

will be decisive in the future ... foresters ... have historically supported
power, landed property, and the status quo, and acted as the gendarme of the

landed proprietor’

(emphasis added).

[Even where the people originally held

the land, it has been removed from them by military power in such places as
Indonesia.]

Although this begins to bring out how it is that major forest destruct­
ion, for example, is not being undertaken by local people themselves,but by
large foreign companies (with the co-operation of a ruling ’’western" elite
in countries involved, elites characteristically propped up in turn by

"western" capital and armsj), it does not explain why "western"—style com­

panies (Japanese as well as American and British) are, with considerable
government support, engaged in these activities.

Again, there are shallow

economic reasons, e.g. growth of GNP, consumer demand, etc.

But in fact the

bulk of tropical forest goes into pulp and paper most of which is used for
packaging, which most people do

not, in any good sense, choose to purchase,

but find it "thrust upon them" and difficult to avoid.
§4.

Getting to the roots, historical and ideological.

And so on.

The deeper reasons are

the underlying attitudes to the natural world that are held by western exploit­

ing powers, attitudes such as human chauvinism, which have a very long history,

and which were shaped and enforced first by the Renaissance, then the Enlight­

enment, and more recently by both positivism and Marxism.

The main object of

the paper is to show how these attitudes figure in such practical matters as
forest destruction and its justification, to outline [again]

criticism of

them, and to indicate a long minority criticism of them, running from the

Germanic Sturm und Drang movement through classical anarchism to the counter
culture

§5.

the modern deeper environmental movement.

Wrong strategic directions:

the potiticaZ thrust.

WORLD (ECOLOGICAL) IMPOVERISHMENT:
IDEOLOGICAL BASES AND EXCUSES.
World ecological impoverishment is world impoverishment, because much
of great value is being lost without due value recompense.

at rapidly accelerating rate:

It is occurring

there is little cause for celebration of

^arthday X.

1.

The mounting ecological losses.

The phenomenon is well enough documented

within the limits of our rather abysmal knowledge awd of the systems^ species
and individuals being lost.

78).

(For a carefully referenced survey see Eckholm

REFERENCES
E. Eckholm,

Disappearing Species:

The Social Challenge_>Worldwatch Paper 22

July 1978.



A. and A. Erhlich, Extinction;
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P.H. Raven, ’Ethics and attitudes" in Conservation of Threatened Plants3
J.B. Simmons et aL) , Plenum, New York, 1976.

(ed

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of

TWO paradigms*

perspn-PJ. unetary
1.

3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
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17.
r 18.
' 19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
Z 25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.
31.
394. «

Machine metaphor " ---Reductionist
linear
--------------- Nature as instrumental ------ “* *"
Observer spirt from nature Causal ®odels-®achanisticZ------- /
Consciousness as epiphenomena1 Dead matter
Growth
Z
Quantitative
Non-Dialectical z
Discrete things
Knowledge as power
™—
No Spiritual dimensions Z-———
Technology as power
——
Having
——
Machine paradigms y-—------ ~
Mastery of nature fro© outside -Z
External relations ---- *-----Subject-object separation -Z-—
Centralization
Design &» technique ---------- ~~
Specialism Z
.—
Training - skills alone ‘Z
—-—~
Anthropocentric —-----Corporation </
— Competition y
——------ Uniformity Z
--------- —**“
Machine planet x
----------Science vs. Religion Z-——~—•
Limited perspective Z^—------Captive of its own mythology X—

organic metaphor
holistic
z
mult1-dimensiona1 (Hi erarchial)
intrinsic value in things
Participator-Agent
scausal-etochastic '
consciousness irreduciable
Living matter - energy
Development
Qualitative (changas) Z
Dialectical Z
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Fields and processes Z
Coderst&nding and wisdom
Spiritual dimensions Z
Appropriate technology Z
Being
r.y
Ecological paradigm Z '
Mastery of self
v'
Internal and external relations
Subject-object reciprocity z""
Decentralisation 1
Design as art ^Z
Cultivation of whole person
. education - balanced Z
Transpersonal Z
Community Z
cooperation Z
diversity and symbiosis Z
Gaia Hypothesis (Living Planet)
Science & Religion Interact Z'
Open poesibilities^jZ
Intentional myth

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Citation

Richard Sylvan and Val Plumwood, “Box 61, Item 1781: Notes and cutting on environment ; Draft of The age of (the realisation of) limits?,” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed December 10, 2023, http://antipodean-antinuclearism.org/items/show/199.

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