NEED FOR A THOROUGH RETHINK
It seems increasingly possible that our immediate descendants, and perhaps many of those now living, will face the ultimate challenge of human viability: reversing our drive towards destroying our planetary habitat. Two important recent books, one by Jared Diamond (2005) and the other by Ronald Wright (2005), show how cultures that have been unable to change a bad ecological course have gone down. The appearance of ecological crises on the multiple fronts of energy, climate change and ecosystem degradation suggests we need much more than a narrow focus on energy substitutes. We need a thorough and open rethink which has the courage to question our most basic cultural narratives.
Imagine this scenario: the northern tribe of Easter Islanders never question the desperate religious cult that has devastated their section of the island as they try to placate with tree sacrifice the angry gods who withhold the rain. Instead, their leaders look around for new sources of trees, casting their eyes perhaps on the still-forested lands of the smaller tribe to the south. Meanwhile, their clever men, their scientists, are set to search for tree substitutes – other types of vegetation perhaps. But the need to consume the trees, given by the religion, is never questioned.