Am I wrong to express concern that Mandi's question has yet to receive a response?

Meanwhile, on the subject of racism, Marc Cooper has a particularly eloquent post today on the Manhattan mosque issue. Be sure to also follow the link to the Washington Post article he provides at the end, which indicates that the percentage of Americans who think that Obama is a Muslim has gone up.


On Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 7:09 AM, Mandi Smallhorne <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Thanks, Michael I also suspect this, but would like to hear it from Robert himself.  I would hate to assume racism.



From: Science for the People Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael H Goldhaber
Sent: 16 August 2010 09:26 PM

To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: applied ecology in Chemical & Engineering News



thanks for this. I fear "chows" is a derogatory  term for Chinese, and I'm sorry I let it by. It came right after Robert was denouncing racism.





On Aug 16, 2010, at 10:57 AM, Mandi Smallhorne wrote:

I would seriously doubt that the Christianity of New Zealand ever resembled liberation theology, which at one time burnt with such a powerful fire I could not but admire it.

What are chows?

I cannot see that Byzantium was “a society devoted principally to prayer” by any stretch of the imagination.



From: Science for the People Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Mitchel Cohen
Sent: 16 August 2010 05:35 PM

To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: applied ecology in Chemical & Engineering News


If you're talking about Christian Liberation Theology, I agree there was (and maybe still is) hope there. Up to a point.

However, since its inception more people were killed by the forces of Christianity than by any other ism -- it probably gives capitalism itself (which overlaps Christianity) a run for the gold.


-----Original Message----- 
From: Robert Mann 
Sent: Aug 16, 2010 1:35 AM 
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: applied ecology in Chemical & Engineering News 


                MannGram®: applied ecology in Chemical & Engineering News

                                        Aug 2010


        I've onsent the C&E News  editorial & dozen letters below to many comrades in applied ecology over 4 decades, including Paul Ehrlich.

        Having devoted most of my career to the issues involved, by 1980 a leading NZ academic in science-based conservation, I feel qualified to make some comments.                  

        Baum's headline aligns with the recent public statement by the then Green Party "co"leader that zero headway has been achieved among non-Green NZ MPs on the wrongness of continued econ growth in the overdeveloped world.

        The idea that increasing turnover will optimise inventories & production & pollution is so blatantly false, so pig-headedly crazy, as to remind us of previous totalitarian fads.  Each totalitarian tendency develops its own characteristic set of slogans, whose nature is flagrant falsity; one such fad 8 decades ago was powered by the now-notorious mottos 'The Slavs are sub-human', 'the Jews have been the cause of most of Germany's troubles lately', 'there exists an Aryan race and it must conquer the world', etc.  The ideology which editor Baum attacks has been prevalent in most nations & transnational institutions for longer than that one.  'Economic growth is a very high priority for our culture', and its ilk, constitute the pointedly crazy slogans of modern materialism when expressed at the level of nations, and transnational organisations such as the World Bank.  This money-worship has been steadily rammed down to the level of small corporations, and most distressingly individuals who intone devoutly 'economic growth will be necessary to get the money which can then be spent on conservation' ;  'Too bad the kakapo may go extinct soon; you can't get an omelette without breaking eggs' ;  'excessive industrial activity must be allowed to degrade the climate, and we who pretend it can't will only then murmur "market failure" ', etc.

        This round of C&E News  letters, assuming it's a fair sample of those sent in, suggests little or no progress since the mid-1970s.  It features at least as much ignorance, and more personal abuse, compared with what I ran into when involved in early green politics.  I rejected the invitation of the first national green party to stand for parliament in 1972.  By 1975 that NZ Values Party got, in a FPP electoral system which doomed votes for 'green' to elect zero MPs, 5.2% of the vote.  Dirk Struik's daughter got double that, in Nelson, but was never expected to win a plurality.  Two decades later, a new proportional electoral system (MMP) devised by USA academics to prevent Germany from letting any one party get too much power got the Values party's descendant (Green party) the same fraction of the vote: 5.2%.  Insofar as psephology can inform us about public awareness, that shows not even slow progress, but backsliding.

        Since then, the 'green' party has become consolidated in our parliament as the spearhead for sexual deviance and neoracism, featuring somel list-MPs who are communists (or anyhow have never renounced that ideology) with little background in any green activism.

        In my opinion our nation is worse informed, and worse organised for green activism, than in the late 1970s.  We are not even holding station in the struggle against the tide of crazed materialism.

        I often agree with Larry Romsted (a physical chemist, like me), but I disagree that state ownership will decrease the harmful misbehaviour for which capitalism is better known.  The record of the USSR in pollution was at least as reckless as that of typical overdeveloped capitalist states.  Chows are burning coal like it's going out of style, with scant regard for the harm they create; and unfortunately that most noxious fuel is nowhere near going out of style or out of reserves, in their country or mine.  Theories that communism would control pollution, conserve resources, and generally share wealth more fairly have not been borne out by the experiments in the USSR, China, Albania, Cuba,  ...   The problem is big materialistic corporations, and it has helped little if at all to arrange that they be state-owned, especially where the state is vigorously atheistic.

        The broad answer, on the low level of that depraved trade economics, is sketched in my samizdat Ownership Matters <>.  The mixed economy, in a society guided largely by Christianity, created briefly the finest modern civilisation.  Before that, Byzantium maintained for centuries what was arguably the finest civilisation ever (a society devoted principally to prayer, producing as byproducts superb armed forces and enough wealth to buy off the Mongols).  On the empirical record, then, I claim Christianity is the only known basis for a decent society.  As C. S. Lewis put it, aim at the next world and you'll get this world thrown in.  While not advocating a theocracy, I say civilisation's best chance by far is to restore at least the extent of political influence Christianity anjoyed in the NZ where I grew up.


        It is not only incompetent but also a 2nd-order idiotic ideological motto to suggest that we are all equally to blame and equally to be deprived of consumption in order to move toward a sustainable way of life.  Some billions in the TW deserve to consume more of essential resources such as water, GM-free food, appropriate technology for energy, etc.  The overdeveloped world, as Ehrlich so rightly called it, should reflect on the fact that its own internal trends of the last few decades exemplify consuming more while enjoying it less.  The accelerating grossness of the overdeveloped world not only deprives the poor billions of resources but also harms the overconsumers (take it from me, please; I confess to being one).

        It is possible to imagine, at least vaguely, a socialist society which is also democratic.  I have harboured such a hope most of my life.  Capitalists have never been willing to try that, but it might come to pass  -  I can't see how.  Meanwhile, I will continue to argue that to deal with the enormous threats outlined anew by Baum the best hope will be in a mixed economy, with a proper (not MMP) electoral system and a decent constitutution (monarchist, if accessible)  -  see attached.


        In the face of the severe & highly effective greenwashing of continued overdevelopment, let us cherish such classics as cited in one of the C&E News  letters:

                                sustainable growth is an oxymoron


        And let us get on with appropriate technology, not slinging insults at those who point out why some technologies are inappropriate.




L. R. B. Mann  M.Sc  Ph.D
applied ecology
22a Ardern Ave.

Stanmore Bay, Whangaparaoa 0932,

(9) 424 0808

                        Addicted to Growth

The subprime mortgage debacle. The Great Recession. Derivatives and hedge funds. The effective bankruptcy of Greece and the subsequent collapse of the euro. China's imminent bubble.


        he probably means 'bubble-burst'  -  RM

The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Weeds resistant to glyphosate. Bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Global climate change.
The common factor?  Humans want too much.  Too many humans are greedy to the point of madness, and neither the global economy nor the global environment can withstand the onslaught of our greed.
Our greed, however, isn't the root cause of the problems we face. Our greed is a symptom of a far more fundamental flaw in the way humans organize their societies and their economies: We are addicted to growth. That addiction to growth stokes the greed that drives the endless and often pointless consumption that we have defined as economic success.
The problem with being addicted to growth is that we live on a finite planet. No matter what growth's apologists claim about finding more resources or harnessing new technology, an addiction to growth, by definition, must at some point collide with reality.
Proponents of endless growth insist that humans have always in the past overcome perceived resource limitations. This is a silly argument. We have been burning fossil fuels, the resources that underpin modern civilization, for a mere two centuries, a period of time that hardly qualifies as "always."
In the new book "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet," Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, argues that anthropogenic climate change/global warming is already well advanced.  It is not a problem for future generations.  It is a problem for us.  McKibben makes a persuasive argument that humans must begin, right now, to adapt to a radically changed planet.  Earth, the planet that humans evolved on and which gave birth to human civilization, no longer exists. In its place is a radically changed place, "with melting poles and dying forests and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place."

Most important, though, McKibben writes, is that it is a planet that will no longer tolerate growth. "Of all the things I've told you about our new planet Š the most terrifying and strangest change would be the end of growth.  Growth is what we do.  Who ever dreamed it might come to an end?" he writes.
The first half of "Eaarth" is devoted to making the case that humans have already irrevocably changed the planet and that life in the future will have to be different because of those changes.  The second half of the book focuses on what humans might do to achieve a good, sustainable existence on this new planet, as opposed to facing catastrophic collapse.

"The trouble with obsessing over collapse," he writes, "is that it keeps you from considering other possibilities. Either you've got your fingers stuck firmly in your ears, or you're down in the basement oiling your guns. There's no real room for creative thinking. To its theologians, collapse is as automatic and involuntary as growth has been to its acolytes."
McKibben insists that there is another possibility, that we should be able to create social structures and an economic system that do not depend on growth. Near the end of "Eaarth," McKibben writes: "My point throughout this book has been that we'll need to change to cope with the new Eaarth we've created.  We'll need, chief among all things, to get smaller and less centralized, to focus not on growth but on maintenance, on a controlled decline from the perilous heights to which we've climbed."
"Eaarth" is a manifesto, one that delivers a message that many people won't want to hear and that many will dismiss out of hand. Growth is a religion, and I think McKibben underestimates how fervently many humans cling to that religion. It is a religion, however, that flies in the face of physical reality, and as such, cannot be maintained.
Rudy Baum <>



Responses on August 2.

Thanks to Rudy Baum for his thoughtful editorial "Addicted to Growth" and for bringing attention to Bill McKibben's new book "Eaarth" (C&EN, June 28, page 3 <> ). Unfortunately, Baum laid responsibility on everyone equally by characterizing the driving force for the potential destruction of our planet as people's greed, writing, for example, "Our greed" and "We are addicted to growth."
We, the people on this planet, are not equal players in our societies.  The primary force that drives most societies' economic activities is maximization of profits - capitalism carried out by businesses and especially large corporations - whereas most people's ability to accumulate stuff is determined by prevailing social conditions, that is, income and availability.
Nor are all societies equal contributors. Western countries are more proficient at consuming goods and raw materials than most Asian or African countries. The people in developing countries still consume much less per capita than we do and are not, currently, nearly as dangerous to the environment. Within industrialized countries, CEOs and boards of directors have much more power to influence the economy than do their employees and other citizens.
Some businesses do promote preserving the environment, but the dominant message from business in all forms of media is to consume. They do not foster public discussions about or provide leadership for how best to collectively reduce energy consumption; to consider saving by sharing costs (single-payer health care); to build mass transit systems, ride bikes, and walk to reduce our dependence on oil; or to consider alternative social structures that might be more ecologically viable than capitalism. For scores of years, movements from the people have promoted sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, no-growth societies, and smaller, less centralized societies as McKibben suggests. Businesses in general oppose these efforts because such ideas are not good for profits, which depend on growth.

Competition drives growth in capitalist societies. Growth is not the religion of the people, but it is the ideology of those who profit from capitalism. The business class controls the organization of production and, via campaign contributions, often determines who gets elected to office and who writes the laws that protect the capitalist system.
The big questions are: How do we, the people, the ordinary folks, get our countries to change direction before our planet is irreversibly fouled? How do we, the people, create a sustainable economy that distributes the wealth equally here and around the world?

Larry Romsted

Piscataway, N.J.



other letters:

Baum's recurrent "no growth" guilt trip is a cruel recommendation for the billions of fellow human beings whose very lives depend on economic and technological growth.
This warped prescription is neither the vision of chemistry nor the message of the American Chemical Society.
Richard A. Carpenter
Charlottesville, Va.
The only point I find arguable in Baum's editorial is whether or not this addiction is the cause or result of the greed that is prevalent in our society.  This is only a chicken-or-the-egg question that is not worth debating.
I strongly support the argument that a basic change is needed in our economic system so that it does not require continued growth to be healthy.  Also, a reduced and stabilized population would be a significant part of a sustainable future.  Earth is still beautiful, and it's all we have.  It is ridiculous to think we can use up everything it has to offer and pack up and leave for some Earth-like orb many light-years away to do the same thing there.
Change will be difficult, and there is no easy way to accomplish it without some pain and discomfort. However, to wait and only hope some scientific discoveries will make everything okay will only result in a much more painful survival-of-the-fittest scenario.
Ronald Wake
Hilton, N.Y.
Why does Baum use the word "addicted" to describe a state of necessity?  We're not addicted to fossil fuels; they're a necessity and will continue to be so until technology creates an improvement.  We're not addicted to growth; it's a necessity. By 2050 it is projected that 10 billion people will populate Earth. Without growth, how will we cope with this increase?
Constructive environmentalists will not sit about moaning of the calamities and catastrophes that await. Instead they will assess the above facts and propose viable solutions. Can we nuke half the population on Earth to decrease the necessity of growth or to reduce the stress on the other species whose habitats are disappearing? Of course not!
It is likely that the population will level off at about 9 billion to 10 billion people. Meanwhile, we rely on technology to provide what is necessary. Environmentalists will continue to wring their hands and cry for the agonies of Mother Earth, but they can do only very little beyond what is already being done.
Finally, with unemployment of chemists at record levels, why would a spokesman for chemists advocate a decrease of growth?  Industrial growth creates the need for technologists and chemists.  Be careful, lest you destroy the need for your job.
Anthony J. Di Milo
San Diego
I agree with Baum's editorial; however, an additional point should be made: We are dealing with a closed system. There is an equilibrium even if we do not immediately recognize it. As an example, several years ago big pharma was making on the order of 20+% profit growth.  At the same time, the same people who were thrilled with that growth were complaining about the price of their prescriptions.  How long did people think that this situation could continue?
The rule of 72 says that at 20% growth, the profit will double in 3.6 years, quadruple in 7.2 years, and octuple in 10.8.  This is insane. Society said that this situation could not continue, and that is why people are suddenly saying big pharma is evil. People want growth for themselves but want everything else to remain constant. If one thing grows, something else decreases. We need to be careful because some of those things that are decreasing may be running out.

Mike Nichols
Somerset, N.J.
In his editorial, Baum jumps on his global-warming soapbox (again). Baum agrees with environmental alarmist Bill McKibben, who preaches that we need "sustainability" (a simpler, scaled-back lifestyle) rather than economic growth. "Growth is a religion," says Baum, and not a good one at that.
Baum's religion seems to be liberalism, which has promoted the current global warming scare. For liberals, global warming is a tactic to promote more government control, higher taxes, and the redistribution of wealth.

Yes, Earth is undergoing a warming trend-but it's not man-made. A 1,500-year cycle of global warming and cooling has been well documented, and it's connected to variations in solar activity. Right now we're in an upswing, with global temperatures rising slightly.
Earth and humans have survived previous temperature cycles, and there is no reason to believe the current warming trend is a significant threat. The bigger threat is liberals like McKibben and Baum telling us that economic downsizing is going to make our lives better. That makes no sense!
Robert Lattimer
Hudson, Ohio
How right you are in your editorial stating that "Growth is a religion ..." It was a coincidence that the very day I read your comments there appeared in my local newspaper an editorial ( <> ) concerning growth in our community and state.
The question that promotion of growth always has to raise is, When does it stop? The newspaper editorial concludes: "In the end you grow or you stagnate." However, such support of unlimited growth reminds me of the fate of bacteria growing in a closed petri dish that undergo growth phases and eventually death resulting from ever-decreasing nutrients and increasing toxins.
Bernard Hofreiter
Peoria, Ill.
The funniest thing is that Baum actually thinks he sounds intelligent. His blinders, caused by the desire to sound like part of the intelligentsia, are so thick that he calls growth a religion. This demonstrates a misunderstanding of religion also. He is not the only donkey in the field braying this note, but it sounds so naïve coming from him. This is one donkey that's ready for the knackers.
Liam J. Rogers
Newark, N.J.
How do you get a mule's attention?  The classic answer is a smart blow between the eyes with a 2-by-4. But the reward may be a noose hanging from the highest yardarm in the British Navy.
I have long limited my views on this matter to a single dimension, a finite Earth and a growing population. Baum has added a second dimension, per capita demand growth. So the denominator of the equation becomes the product of two consumption factors.
I liken the effort to consume more things by more people from a finite source to a dog chasing his tail. The faster he goes, the sooner he collapses in utter exhaustion.
W. Robert Schwandt
Spokane Valley, Wash.
Baum's editorial "Addicted To Growth" was an interesting read.  If you really believe that we need to break our addiction to growth, then I challenge you to take the first step.  As editor-in-chief, you must have considerable influence at C&EN.  You could push for policies that are resistant to growth, such as significantly increasing subscription costs for new members.  Perhaps you could take an even broader stance.  I suspect that many of the companies advertising in C&EN are doing so to encourage corporate growth. You could reduce the amount of ad space offered or eliminate it entirely to avoid being an accessory to that growth.
If, as may be the case, you did not mean that all growth was bad, then please stop making such crazy generalizations and use more precise language in your editorials.
Seth L. Yates
Fresno, Calif.
Regarding Baum's editorial on growth, I say right on!  With continuing growth in world population and without corresponding growth in the supply of potable water and arable land - both now stretched tight - and with the dwindling supply of petroleum, there is no doubt that the end of growth is upon us, whether it is now or in a decade or so.  Yet there seems to be no reputable school of economics that does not assume continuing growth as the answer to our economic well-being.  Go figure!

Victor J. Reilly
Aiken, S.C.
C&EN's editor considers that "growth" has become a religion. However, attributing climate change to human activities has become a religion, and as with other religions the evidence against it is ignored by its followers. In fact, there is increasing evidence that climate change is NOT due to human activity but to nature at work. The only growth that we should worry about is the growth in population.

Thomas D. Smith
Oak Harbor, Wash.

Baum's editorial highlights the magnitude and urgency of the environmental problems facing planet Earth. Baum cites Bill McKibben as writing that "it is a planet that will no longer tolerate growth."  McKibben seems to be one of the few who are bold enough to tell it like it is: that is, sustainable growth is an oxymoron.  An epigram often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi enunciates this in a memorable fashion, admonishing us to live simply so that others may simply live.
Rama Viswanathan
Beloit, Wis.
Baum challenges a basic belief of our economic system - our addiction to growth.  He points out that endless and often pointless consumption is defined in our society as economic success.
I see this as an unfortunate truth that we have preferred to avoid. On the one hand, economists see increased consumption as essential to providing the jobs we need in order to end the recession. But it is clear that in spite of various programs to increase the generation of energy from renewable sources, there is no prospect that we will get the 80% reduction in CO2 emissions the experts say we need to have by 2050.  Our economy and our lifestyles are too locked in to using all forms of energy.
The people of India and China logically believe that their efforts to achieve the lifestyles of Westerners should not be subject to restrictions on the growth of their economies. Innovation of all sorts is a god of economists, but nearly every new gadget that attracts millions of buyers means more energy used in fabricating, distributing, and using it. Global advertising itself cost $445 billion last year.
The standard of living is pretty much equated with consumption everywhere in the world. And as we see the rich getting richer in most countries, we see there are seldom limits to personal consumption. To avoid catastrophic global warming, the world must reduce its use of energy. But with American addiction to growth, can we dispute the right of the people in undeveloped nations to quadruple their use of energy to match our lifestyles?
Is it possible to make quality of life the common goal rather than economic achievement and accumulation of wealth? Is it possible to adopt having just one or two children per family as a goal?
John Burton
Washington, N.J.
We can look at unbridled growth and its consequences from a different perspective, not as a uniquely human addiction but as a more widespread phenomenon. One of the simplest of organisms and ecosystems is yeast in a fermentation broth. In the brewing of beer, yeast is added to a nutrient cereal broth. The yeast use the carbohydrates in the broth as their food source and produce alcohol as their waste product. For a while the yeast happily consume the nutrients, grow, and reproduce, and the yeast population keeps on increasing. For a short time it looks like the yeast population can go on increasing forever. There is an abundant supply of food surrounding them, and they have no enemies. However, unknown to the yeast, the concentration of alcohol-their waste product-keeps increasing. Unfortunately, alcohol is a poison to the yeast. Once the alcohol concentration in their environment reaches a critical level, guess what happens to the yeast? They die.
Any species - large or small, complex or simple - that depletes its natural resources and/or poisons its environment will face the same fate.  Although we humans are supposedly highly intelligent, instead of developing a steady-state economy, we too are following a similar path of self-destruction with a global economy dependent on ever-increasing consumption that leads to ever-expanding production resulting in ever-decreasing natural resources and more and more environmental damage.

We are, in fact, acting like giant intelligent microbes; we are doing to the whole planet what yeast do to the fermentation broth.  The argument is that we are a crisis-driven species and that we will find a technological fix just in time to save ourselves from oblivion.  I sure hope so, for there may be some aliens in outer space, smacking their lips and watching their "beer" brewing down here on planet Earth.


 Lancelot Fernando


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Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara