04 June 2008

I compiled these axioms of sustainability from Heinberg, Feeney, Bartlett and Monbiot. The Singapore government needs to abide by these axioms if we are to tackle climate change successfully and ensure a sustainable living environment for present and future generations. Failure to conform to these axioms will render MEWR's blueprint (Green Plan 2012) towards environmental sustainability ineffective in the long term.

MEWR's Green Plan 2012 does not address the following pertinent and important issues:

  1. Singapore's overpopulated numbers and carrying capacity.
  2. Our flawed neoclassical economic growth paradigm.
  3. Our fractional reserve banking system which is based on a flawed assumption that infinite economic growth is both possible and desirable.
  4. Peak Oil.
  5. Food self-sufficiency.
There is a clear conflict between the wants and needs of humans and a sustainable environment.

These axioms and their corollaries make perfect sense and are straightforward. Click on the authors' names for the complete article and discussions.

  • (Tainter’s Axiom): Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.
  • (Bartlett’s Axiom): Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.
  • To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.
  • To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.
  • Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to biosphere functions.
  • A finite earth can support only a limited number of humans. There is therefore a global “carrying capacity” for humans.
  • Axiomatically, a population which has grown larger than the carrying capacity of its environment (e.g., the global ecosystem) degrades its environment...Such a population is said to be in “overshoot.”
  • It’s axiomatic, as well, that a population can only temporarily overshoot carrying capacity. It will subsequently decline in number, to return to a level at or below carrying capacity.
  • Because it degrades its environment, a population in overshoot erodes existing carrying capacity so that fewer members of that species will be supported by that habitat in the future.
  • Among other factors, our extraction of nonrenewable resources such as oil and coal has allowed us temporarily to exceed the earth’s carrying capacity for our species. As these supplies are drawn down, if alternatives do not keep pace, we will struggle to maintain our present numbers.
  • At any rate of use, non-renewable resources are, by definition, depleted. They will not come back.
  • Beyond a certain rate of use, renewable resources are depleted.
  • Beyond a certain rate of exploitation, renewable resources become non-renewable resources.
  • The earth’s capacity to absorb pollution is limited.
  • The system which governs our economic lives, which we call capitalism, is itself is a limited resource. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme.
  • The people who get hit first and hit hardest by any one of these realities are not the rich but the poor.
  • Population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.
  • In a society with a growing population and / or growing rates of consumption of resources, the larger the population, and / or the larger the rates of consumption of resources, the more difficult it will be to transform the society to the condition of sustainability.
  • The response time of populations to changes in the human fertility rate is the average length of a human life, or approximately 70 years. ( Bartlett and Lytwak 1995 ) [ This is called "population momentum." ]
  • The size of population that can be sustained ( the carrying capacity ) and the sustainable average standard of living of the population are inversely related to one another.
  • Sustainability requires that the size of the population be less than or equal to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem for the desired standard of living.
  • The benefits of population growth and of growth in the rates of consumption of resources accrue to a few; the costs of population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources are borne by all of society.
  • Growth in the rate of consumption of a non-renewable resource, such as a fossil fuel, causes a dramatic decrease in the life-expectancy of the resource.
  • The time of expiration of nonrenewable resources can be postponed, possibly for a very long time, by (i) technological improvements in the efficiency with which the resources are recovered and used; (ii) using the resources in accord with a program of "sustained availability" (Bartlett, 1986); (iii) recycling; (iv) the use of substitute resources.
  • When large efforts are made to improve the efficiency with which resources are used, the resulting savings are easily and completely wiped out by the added resources consumed as a consequence of modest increases in population.
  • The benefits of large efforts to preserve the environment are easily canceled by the added demands on the environment that result from small increases in human population.
  • When rates of pollution exceed the natural cleansing capacity of the environment, it is easier to pollute than it is to clean up the environment.
  • The chief cause of problems is solutions.
  • Humans will always be dependent on agriculture. Supermarkets alone are not sufficient. The central task in sustainable agriculture is to preserve agricultural land.
  • If, for whatever reason, humans fail to stop population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources, Nature will stop these growths.
  • In every local situation, creating jobs increases the number of people locally who are out of work.
  • Starving people do not care about sustainability. If sustainability is to be achieved, the necessary leadership and resources must be supplied by people who are not starving.
  • The addition of the word "sustainable" to our vocabulary, to our reports, programs, and papers, to the names of our academic institutes and research programs, and to our community initiatives, is not sufficient to ensure that our society becomes sustainable.
  • Extinction is forever.