Are We Saving The Planet? (George Drake)

I journal regularly. Much more so than I blog. Recently I decided to begin each entry not just with the date, but with the world’s population at the time of the entry. You can see a current, up to the second, estimate by going to, which is Princeton University’s population clock.

This morning I noticed that there were 406,800 more people than the prior entry, two days before. That’s about the size of Sacramento back when I lived there some 30 years ago. (I could give you a more current reference, but it strikes me as playing to my natural tendency to “wallow in it,” as my dad used to say.)

Every two days the population of Earth grows by what used to be regarded as the size of a significant city. Every two days. There are 182 such pairs each year. One hundred Eighty-two of what I knew as “Sacramento” when I grew up every year. It’s mind boggling, and even more so when you realize population control is the taboo subject of the current discussions of environmental problems. It’s like it isn’t the driving force behind every problem we have. But it is.

The Spaghetti-blog topic this week is “Are We Saving The Planet?” For those of you who don’t know, one of the few things Common Sense for the Third Millennium has been doing while pursuing 501(c)3 (tax exempt) status with the IRS is conduct periodic Spaghetti-blog dinners (Splogs), which feature a discussion on a topic relevant to the purposes of CS3rd, twice a month. (The pursuit of tax exempt status has been a story of its own. I’ll tell your about it in another entry, maybe.)

Perhaps the first topic we’ll need to address is what, exactly, do we mean by the term,”Saving the Planet?” I’ve surfed a little, and find plenty of suggestions for what constitutes “sustainable this, and sustainable that,” but am having difficulty seeing where anyone has attempted to define “saving the planet.” Lots of references to it, of course. And everybody seems to claim to be doing it. But nobody seems so bold as to say what it means.

That strikes me as odd, somehow. Is saving the planet simply a matter of sustainable this and sustainable that and, I presume, sustainable something else? How many sustainable this’s and that’s will it take to have saved it? My mathematically trained mind rejects the ambiguity of it all.

Yet, when I try to put a definition on it myself, I think I see the problem. First, even before defining “saving it,” we need to talk about “not saving it.” What, really, is at risk here?

Is it our culture? Capitalism? Human prosperity? Our dominance as a species over all other critters? The species, Homo sapiens, itself? The well-being of species that depend our success, e.g., cattle, kittens, and racoons? Biodiversity? The mass extinctions of numerous species? Or is it possibly Earth’s biosphere itself?

As some of you know, I think the latter. At the very least, if we’re assessing risk, shouldn’t we consider what the worst case scenario might be? Where do we see this going? What’s really at potential risk here? If we think it something substantially short of the biosphere, what evidence do we have for that opinion? (And don’t just say that the biosphere has survived every previous disaster, as there’s never been a biologically triggered global extinction event before, so we have no comparables there.) If we ignore the possibility we might kill the entire biosphere, presumably because we think it not important compared to what happens to humans, what evidence do we have for that opinion?

I’d like to hear what others have to say on this topic. We seem to be beginning to get participation on this blog, and that’s something I think will absolutely have to be part of “saving it.” (Not participation in “this blog,” necessarily, but participation.) Click on the comment button below and join in, please.

We’ve learned to structure the Splog gatherings somewhat and I’ve pretty well decided that reports should be constructed and posted to the website, for the limitation of physical space in people’s homes heavily restricts the dissemination of the thinking which goes on there. Watch this space (i.e., the website) for a new link to these postings. How to propagate the actual Splogs, though,? What if you–yes, you, the reader–were to hold your own “Splog” on a topic of your choice and send me a report for inclusion on this, soon to be, new space on the website? After all, it’s fun and a great excuse to contact those people you don’t really know, but think you might like to. If you’d like ideas on how to go about it, contact me at

BTW: in researching literature on the “Saving the Planet” Splog, I encountered this thought provoking article by Bill McKibben, taken from the 11/16/06 New York Review of Books,


Thanks, and Namaste

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