Climate/ecological breakdown

I have another book recommendation - but strictly only for data freaks! - Slowdown by Danny Dorling.

Dorling is a professor of social geography with a meticulous statistical bent - and an unusual focus not so much on analysis of distributions or changes, but on mapping rates of change.

The book reinforces what we already know about climate and other environmental degradation, but with some quite different insights. I’m less than halfway through (I got it for Xmas) but the argument shaping up is that not only do we have to slow down. but that we are already slowing down - indeed in some ways have been for some decades - that the world of all kinds of growth and ‘progress’ we imagine we are still living in is in fact already ending, as it must, and an entirely different world of slow stability is already taking over.

There are many challenging explorations - Dorling does not, for example, believe in the recent ‘data explosion’ or the increasingly rapid pace of technological advance - but one example that has particularly struck me is population growth. Dorling demolishes the old UN projections of over 11 billion people by 2100, and with them the idea that population plays a significant role in climate change. He looks, for instance, at the growing sophistication of the modelling of the demographer Jorgen Randers, who in 1972 predicted 15 billion by 2030, but now predicts a peak of around 8 billion in 2040, then long decline. Most demographers have similarly revised their whole approach, and now project that in 2100 the Earth’s population will actually be lower than it is now.

In this and many other ways, our children’s lives will be shaped not by growth, but by deceleration or stability - our challenge is to mitigate climate/ecological breakdown (which we have to do urgently, now, or there will be no future for most of our children) - but if we succeed, our children will live in a world that is smaller and slower than our own: that will be their challenge.


I watched it last night @kirsteastevenson (my daughter had heard about it as a metaphor for climate change - not from me - it’s all over the internet apparently - and she wanted to see it).

You’re right, it is a weak film. Occasionally the generally laboured and unfunny satire hits the mark, but not often - and it is peculiarly soulless (in a way I find most contemporary US novels - eg Jonathan Franzen - funny from time to time but no disguising the gaping emptiness at its centre). I found myself wondering if a decent edit could save it!

Perhaps it works better for Americans - but then art always reveals something of the society that produced it - and not necessarily the revelation the authors intended…


“We must change almost everything in our current societies.
The bigger your carbon footprint - the bigger your moral duty.
The bigger your platform - the bigger your responsibility.
Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’
But I don’t want your hope.
I don’t want you to be hopeful.
I want you to panic.
I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.
And then I want you to act.
I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
I want you to act as if our house is on fire.
Because it is.”
― Greta Thunberg


Chucky just pointing out what we already know but without a plan or an idea.
Everyone is a Simon Cowell but not many can sing!

I loved Meryl Streep’s Sarah Palin impression :relaxed:

They really needed Bruce Willis and his vest of course.

Hi Geof. Have you come across Gail Tverberg ? She talks about the limits of growth in her long running blog -

No I hadn’t seen that Fleur - just clicked through your link and it looks really interesting - thanks.

I finished the Danny Dorling book some days ago - it is very interesting, but I have to emphasise again very heavy on statistics, so not everyone’s cup of tea.

The basic message is that throughout human history people have lived in relatively stable social formations. Although leaders and politics may have changed or become unstable from time to time, the basics of how people lived their lives were pretty stable over many centuries, even millenia. The exception has been the ‘great acceleration’ of industrial capitalism - fossil-fuelled - but even at its core in western Europe this has changed life for most people only for a century - and in most of the world only decades - and is now all over bar the shouting.

When I think of my grandfather’s life - he was born in 1899, in a rural horse-powered world - before airplanes were even invented - or even his daughter’s life - my mother - who lived her childhood in a house that didn’t even have a hard-surfaced road to it, let alone any utilities, etc - but both lived to see pretty much the way we live now; or when I think that the moon landings were half-a-century ago - it seems clear enough that the rate of change has already slowed.

The paperback edition of the book (the one I got) had an added Epilogue on the pandemic, which put forward a very interesting thought: that it will affect our psychology - that we will always now see the world as those that lived through the pandemic, and this will change our behaviour, including our politics, for years to come.

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Until today I felt Don’t Look Up’s portrayal of a superficial celebrity-obsessed media was a bit exaggerated - or perhaps a reflection of the degradation of news in America, rather than Europe - but I’m just watching the BBC lunchtime news, on this day that it has been reported that the hottest 7 years on record are all in the last 7 years, and the top and by far longest news item was about one celebrity sports star’s difficulty entering Australia.

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In terms of ‘slowdown’ - it seems France may be leading the way…

Have they stopped putting water in plastic bottles and shipping it around the world?

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Reading through most of the thread, some very interesting points, but what I found incredibly interesting was this, actually showing country emissions/capita:

Interesting, because per capita, you have the greatest ‘country polluters’ still actually lower than I would expect.

Ultimately, there has been so much discussion about climate change relatively recently, but I still see alot of noise and bluster without too much material impactful action. Some may say this is a little unfair, but there are still so many damaging practices around the world, primarily driven by personal interests, whether that be individuals, businesses or Governments, or a combination. Individuals still crave ‘stuff’ and ‘short term comfort’, businesses peddle their wares to drive profit and expansion, very actively encouraging more wasteful consumerism/behaviours, and Governments don’t really want to change all of this as it will undoubtedly hit the bottom line of the country. Crazy but true.

At the moment, it sounds like…‘we need to do it’…‘what’…‘well, anything’…‘just do it’.

EV’s are currently the vogue topic, but wasn’t diesel the topic previously, and I’m sure we all have many many other examples. There needs to be a very clear plan, so folks can actively participate, and specifically understand what the impact will be. Yes, not buying water in bottles is a great step, but it frankly fades into oblivion, in terms of scale. If something needs to be done, it needs to go past the discussion and dinner party intellectualising and into something pragmatic that will actually contribute and impact. Of course there will always be those in society who aren’t interested in participating, but I’m sure that if there was some sort of clearer guidance on e.g. behaviours and impacts, this would help enormously and there would be more effect. On top of that, more legislation or taxes to discourage behaviours/action, a little like the way smoking has been dealt with. At the moment I think the global animal is just far too difficult to wrestle to the ground, so very very difficult to see how the big tanker will turn in time actually!


Agreed, every step forward helps. Its like anything Gov officials say, if they dont do it themselves then the population dont feel inclined to although there are some good people doing just that it needs the majority not the minority.

And that’s the point actually - I would say most folks are going about their daily routines, following the ingrained habits, without much inclination to be doing what others feel is the ‘right thing to do’. And I think that’s for many reasons, not simply that they are ‘bad’ people, but they just aren’t aware of what is the ‘right thing to do’. Like many other things in life, if you are shown or taught, the learnng curve is accelerated, and once new habits form, they become ingrained and then, hey presto, the new ‘normal’. Behaviour and habits are tough topic to deal with, and especially if the ‘right thing to do’ is a more expensive route! As long as the lower cost alternative is available, the vast majority of folks will take it, regardless, unfortunately.

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When I see a name like ‘Estonia’ I think negatively – it’s another of those eastern European countries - I think of words like corruption, violence and more. I know I’m wrong and out of date and must widen my horizons.

Estonia is doing something really quite unexpected, as far as I’m concerned! Green city 2022.

See short video here…

See long video here…worth watching all 45 minutes in my view.

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Yes a very surprising place and inventors of a fair bit of tech like Skype.

Yes - Tallinn is a lovely city - I’ve worked there and am still on the advisory board of Tallinn University social entrepreneurship masters - the old town is a great place to hang out if you’re into history and culture - or indeed bars and restaurants - and everybody speaks English. I knew it was very progressive in tech terms, but didn’t know about its environmental ambitions.