07 May 2009

After years of encouraging and pursuing a policy of higher birth rates for Singapore, I was a little surprised to read these comments by MM Lee at a dinner marking the Botanic Gardens' 150th anniversary in TODAYonline (see below). Apparently, even he understands our "sunshine limits to growth". So the question to ask, why does Singapore continue to pursue those very policies of economic and population expansion which will only lead to self-destruction due to the over-exploitation of the earth's resources?

We live in a momentous turning point in the history of human civilization where the converging crises of peak oil, climate change, overpopulation and a broken financial system threaten to throw us into an era marked by elevated levels of violence, crime, pestilence, famine and death. Sadly, many Singaporeans remain blissfully unaware of these impending events. I suspect this ignorance may be attributed in part to the frequent silence of the local media and our culture's over-reliance on the government to "fix it all".

The response of governments around the world has been the exact opposite of what they should be doing to tackle these problems. They have been adding fuel to the fire. Instead of downsizing and cutting back on growth and consumption, we have been urged to spend in order to stimulate the economy to meet growth targets. Replacing the GDP metric with the Genuine Progess Indicator is one of the first steps any country should take to measure true progress and wealth. Instead of "re-localising" our economy and our food and energy production to maximise our resilience to external shocks, we promote globalization and free trade to boost our production efficiency and capacity to the delight of the transnational corporations' bottom lines, but to the detriment of the environment, the middle class and the peasantry.

The Minister Mentor is right, we have outsmarted ourselves. So now i ask him, why is Singapore "still doing these stupid things?"

‘Humans are too clever’

MM LEE: I read an analysis ... This man said, for thousands of years of agricultural societies, the only source of energy was the sun which limits what they can grow, what animals can feed on the grass, what population you can sustain. Then came the industrial revolution ... (driven by) fire and coal. Coal is stored solar energy. Then they found oil; also stored solar energy..

Now ... they got this experiment to make two atoms collide and see whether they can generate power like the sun. So man is trying to generate mini suns, that can go on forever. But when you switch it on the whole thing burns up. So man has not found a way ....

And if we do find out what’s the way, will that solve it? I don’t think so. We’ve become too clever by far. If we find a solution to energy, the world will be overpopulated ... In 50 years, we are expecting 9.5 billion people from 6.3 billion now. You find a new energy source, we’ll become 80 billion people in the next century. Then what?.

So I think sooner or later, the human being must come to terms with the fact that this planet called earth can only sustain so much. You go beyond that, you destroy your habitat..

MODERATOR TOMMY KOH: Haven’t they learnt that already?.

MM LEE: If we’ve learnt that, why are we still doing these stupid things?