Beyond the limits of the development
Reflections in border to the Conference “The ways of the sustainable development - 10 Nobel for the future”, hold in Milan, june 6, 1996 by Adriano Autino
How far are the bars of the cage?

“The point of demografic stability is scheduled when the world population will be double as regard the actual. The planet, with the help of the scientific research, could support this situation...”. The message of Umberto Colombo, in opening of the conference, is aimed to reassure: the mankind is not yet pushing on the planetary limits and, above all, the Research, if we “let it work”, can solve the problems in useful time. The report of Carlo Rubbia develops starting from such premises, to aim decidedly on the theme of the energy: criticized the coal (for the high emissions of carbonic and sulphurus anhydride), criticized the renewable fonts (for the enormous extensions of territory needed to apply the process on a wide scale), postponed of 50 years the nuclear fusion, the only choice that, according to Rubbia, could furnish low cost energy to the Developing Countries (they otherwise will use the coal, with a big aggravation of the greenhouse effect) appears to be the energy amplifier based on the particle accelerator, solution to which Rubbia is working with his group at CERN. According to Jean Marie Lehn (Desk of Chemistry of the molecular interactions at the College de France, in Paris) the impact of the population on the environment is not yet function of the quantity, but of the behaviours: it would be therefore enough to modify the behaviours to reenter in a perspective of sustainable development. The intervention of Prof. Lehn has offered numerous reflection cues of science philosophy, culminated in the following: “The conscious thought is the higher point of the life development, therefore, speaking about respect for the life and for the nature, it is the human thought to be worthy of the best respect”. But Lehn suggests (in line with the preceding interventions) a vision that denies the existence of a situation of emergency or the fast approaching of a point of crisis. The one who shakes the meeting is instead Lester Brown, that carries impressive data on the decrease, since five years, of the wheat world production, on the decrease of the seafood resources and of the available water in the world. All this with a population that grows of 90 millions per year. According to Brown, the humanity is already pressing on the limits of the resources of this planet, due to what he defines the “Acceleration of the history”: since 1950 to today the human world population has doubled, it is therefore grown more than in the 4 millions preceding years (Brown considers evidently also the erect kinds preceding the homo sapiens); the economy, grown in the only decade 1985 - 1995 of 4 million of billions $, that is more than from the beginning of the civilization to 1950. Lester Brown concludes that it is higly desirable the stabilization - TODAY - of the world population. This is not surprising, if we think that even the ones who seems to speak mostly in the name of the humanity (and particularly of the not yet developed part) they accept however the limit to the development. It doesn’t really matter if it is correct the first analysis (we are still far away form the limits) or the second (we’re already pushing on the bars of the cage). The striking fact is the general acceptance of the limits. Nobody has expressed the only concept really able to impart a strong turn to the general address: “The human kind could not accept any limit to its development, if it doesn’t want to remain a species subject to the natural cycles of this planet, and therefore destined to the extinction.” If a similar thought has lodged in the head of anybody of the partecipants to the conference, this one is wary of giving it away. Yet, in lack of a similar concept, the debate concludes to practice in mere moral exhortations or palliatives.

The equation of the sustainability and the one of the development

It seems to be approved from everybody that the number of existing people and the trend of the numeric growth of the human kind have a primary place in the equation of the sustainability (granted that anyone is able to write this equation), beyond of the different evaluations on the margins still existing or non existing (for instance David Pimental, already in the ‘94, affirmed that the planet in the 2100 will sustain a population well not superior at 2 billions people). The number of the existing people however, and the same Lester Brown seems to recognize it when he speaks about acceleration of the history, holds a remarkable part also in the equation of the cultural (technological and civil) development of the human kind in the course of the last century. The economy in growth, the markets in growth, stimulates ideas for new enterprises, new searchs, new goals. In a numerically bigger population a bigger number of innovative ideas will develop. Shortly the human kind has achieved to hold an enormous cultural wealth and an immense patrimony: six billions of intelligences. It seems that, however, nobody is able to see the exceptionality, neither the probable unrepeatability, of this big wealth, and that nobody pays attention to the big criticality and oneness of this historical era, in which the human kind is compared to the first planetary challenge, but it owns, for the first time in his history, the means to face it. This richness is, on the countrary, sight like a boring problem, to be in some way eliminated, in order to have the chance to continue the work. It doesn’t surprise that this way of thinking is owned by the Nature’s Champions, those people who place the safeguard of the planet before the one of the human kind. What instead strikes is that also those people who speak in the name of the human kind, they think so, because they are not able to become the initiators of a new humanism and also, I guess, because they aren’t humble enough to recognize that we need the help of everybody (six billions people), if we want to hope to win the challenge. And to get the help of all the people we need, for start, to avoid to deny the right to the future to the largest part of the humanity. This awareness must also flutter, conscious or not, in the background of who with lightness postulates the demografic stabilization and, from the top of the desk, pontificates: “This our is a planet that doesn’t have still reached the demografic stability...”. Suddendly it comes to my mind to ask him how many planets with sentient kinds he could have examined and that, for gentleness, he make us also partecipate of his statistical data. The demografic stabilization is, besides, an unattainable goal. In the demografic equation enter factors on which neither the WWF, neither the U.N. could act for decree: factors like the hope in the future, the trust in the possibility to build a better world, the desire to see one’s own family to continue. When the desperation takes the place of the hope (the only anti-demografic recipe that seems to work in the developed countries) we don’t have a demografic stability: we have a regression, with all the depressing consequences that everyone can imagine: what shall we do with the sustainability and an untouched nature, in a world without children? The sustainability of the development is not, besides, measurable, therefore who could establish when we will be reentered in the limits? It is instead more probable that a numerically reduced, and soon technologically and culturally reduced, humanity will return to more primitive energy extraction technologies, with consequent aggravation of the echological problem. In nature stabilized species don’t exist: they only exist developing species and extincted species, according to rhythms and cycles that were not certainly designed for our exclusive use and consumption. Of course a sentient and technological kind has the chance to take its own destiny in its hands, avoiding its extinction or accelerating it. The challenge that the human kind is called to face is of enormous proportions: will be the human kind that kind able to overcome the limit of the extinction, set from the biological clock of the nature of this planet? Or must we leave the field free for some smaller sized kind (rodents, bugs, etc..)?

We can’t do anything but go ahead

He is right Lester Brown when he underlines the extreme specificty of this period and of the problems of enormous course, to resolve which the Man doesn’t have any preceding experience to use as a training. And they are right Carlo Rubbia and Jean Marie Lehn when they say that only the scientific and technological research could carry us beyond the crisis. The road, but nobody of the Nobel present at the conference seems to guess it, it is that to become aware of the exceptionality of the historical period that we are living, meanwhile refusing all the roads that carry to the euthanasia of the human kind, more or less tempting that them could be. Enormous resources are nowaday freezed by a cultural, philosophical and, why not, economic, gigantic misunderstanding. Lester Brown has supported, between other: “As like the preceding historical period was characterized by the ideologicl conflict, the incoming period will be characterized by the feed confilct”. Some reflections suddendly arise: if some centuries of ideological conflict between liberalism and collectivism (both theories that postulated a development based on the boundlessness of the resources) didn’t prepare us to this conjuncture, what would them served to? Conscious that the only true wealth is our capacity of work (that’s way the human kind was never so rich like today), I think that we should look also among the reasons and the ideals of that conflict for the positive ideological elements that could help us facing an epoch in which there will be shortage of resources: will we still use the method of the selfish closing, slaughtering us each-other, this time without not even more a claimed nobility of ideals? I think that it will be better for us to share the resources, with much more attention to the equity, if it is true that them begin to be scarce (using collectivistic principles and motivations, both religious and secular) and to solicit the initiative and the creativeness of all (using own concepts of the liberal thoughts), to arrive and agree a new abundance of resources, to be able to perceive new horizons, the only factor able to relight the hope, and therefore the development. We, of the industrialized world, have a big responsibility, as it was rightly supported by Carlo Rubbia and Jean Marie Lehn: to help the other 80% of the world population to develop. We owe, I add, to do it with big humility, carrying them what we know, but asking their precious help, promoting a culture of analytical search and experimentation, to work on the frontiers of our world with the goal of widen it with intelligence, beyond the bars of the cage. The problems to take care with urgency, if we will be able to look at the things from this point of view of much better clear-headedness, are not only those, also vital, of the energy. Sooner or later, if we want the human kind to continue the development, we must build new habitable world, therefore I think that a good priority level is to be given to the study of the natural ecosystems with the goal to become able to reproduce them in smaller size in areas (both planetary and extra-planetary) where previously the life was not present. The struggle against the desert seems to me more important than to save the Amazonian forest; the creation of plantation and orchards in previously arid zones will reach a quintuple objective: to increase the food production, to create civic space, to create green lungs, to give a job to millions of people and to increase their cultural level. We need therefore a new neolithic revolution, whit which we will populate and make fertile zones previously arid, and to learn building a safer habitat for the human development, thing that this planet, if we attentively see, it never was. In the hope that the universe is really endless.


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