Lessons from unsustainable technology [John Lienhard, ISSS 1998 Plenary Session, July 23/98]

[Plenary session, July 23/98, 10:15 a.m.]

John Lienhard

Imagine in 1960, a company had resources to exterminate whales. Howard Hotelling Anchovies to the limit, but what about seagulls (who starved). Hotelling applied today to Pacific halibut. Coal production after new steam engines. Faith that technology will save us -- is disturbing. Jeavons: the coal question. Bessemer more efficient method of making steel. Arab oil embargo: more efficient cars, yet now drive twice are far as then

Industrial frees us to find other things to work on.

We have to choose to save the world, each personally.

Population pressure. Where is solution? Human generosity. Ravens in winter: carrion is rare Biologists are rediscovering the generosity is our primary survival mechanism.

African Lake: cyclids -- 200 species, only lips jaws and teeth are different.

Texture of human sharing: share in ways that other species don't Technology is the primary type of generosity.

Sustaining power of technology change:

Our actions are irreversible.

Questions

What is the ideal total population? Over what period might we reduce population? Rapoport: Sharing need to distinguish between conservative and non-conservative goods:

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