Letters to my grandchildren: introduction

For the last few years I’ve been waging a one-man campaign to resurrect New Zealand’s slide into the Third World and to save the planet.

The project’s been a dismal failure.

Although my old blog generated a reasonable amount of traffic it was mainly from outside New Zealand and the visitors were mostly interested in the computer stuff. I couldn’t even raise the interest of my own friends and family, let alone start a revolution. I’m not getting any younger and I’m finding it hard to cope with the stress induced by a constant stream of progressively worse news.  I’m giving up.  I’ll try, like my lovely daughter-in-law, to look on the bright side.

If I can find one.

On the road to abject failure, I learned a lot about economics, the financial crisis, limits to growth, and the prognosis for the planet and its people. It won’t have escaped your notice that I’ve banged on about it a little at times. I have a good grasp of mathematics and physics. I spent most of my working life as a problem troubleshooter and in monitoring, operating and fixing complex systems. I understand trends. As a practical thermodynamicist I developed an instinct for the way processes evolve. I believe I am as qualified as anyone to prognosticate about the direction in which the planet is headed.

In short, I understand this stuff. Up to a point. Nobody understands economics, especially not economists.

When it all turns to custard people will be asking, just as they have with the economic meltdown, “Why didn’t somebody fix it?”; “Why did your generation allow this to happen?”; “Why didn’t the gummint do something?” Well, just as with the collapse of the world’s economy, the causes of ecological meltdown have been known for decades and many people, including many of my generation, have been trying to sound the alarm, but to no great effect.

Governments have accomplished nothing. The whole economic and ecological planetary edifice has now reached a point where the outlook is positively terrifying. For several years I’ve been proclaiming that the prognosis will get steadily worse. My wife probably gets sick of hearing it, but even she confesses that my predictions have been correct on both the climate and the economy.

Some of my family are Jehovah’s Witnesses, obviously they have a slightly different perspective than I do as a paid up agnostic bordering on atheism. I’m asking Christians to consider the possibility that:

  • the interpretations of the predictions are wrong, or
  • the timing of the predictions is wrong, or
  • the looming disaster is associated with the Armageddon they’re awaiting.


I said this online recently:

“The current financial crisis is a serious problem which has cost millions of people their jobs and their homes, but don’t worry too much, eventually it will end. Maybe badly, maybe very badly. The 99% will be poorer but most of us will get over it.”

“On the other hand, we won’t so easily shrug off the consequences of thumbing our collective nose at the laws of physics. The ever more dire probable outcome of our failure to control growth and to stem climate changing activity has now reached the frightening stage. It will almost certainly turn out very, very badly. There is a significant possibility that it could end human civilization. It is absolutely certain that within decades it will radically alter the way we live, at least in the affluent nations of the world.”

I’m not exaggerating. The situation is now deadly serious.

There are people with far more resources than I have–and a lot more time and energy–who aren’t having much success getting the message across to the right people so I’ve concluded that there’s not a lot I can effectively accomplish. What I can do before giving up tilting at windmills is pass on what I know to my family, specifically to my adult grandchildren and their families.

Every week or so, I’ll send to those who choose to sign up, links to information on my website and elsewhere that will provide an understanding of what is happening, what will happen, and how it will affect you. I’m not trying to turn anyone into an evangelist, I just want my family to be prepared for the inevitable. There will be steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you, your children and your grandchildren are amongst the casualties.

The bottom line

Even if we all totally transform our behaviour by next Wednesday and give up all activities which threaten the future of the planet and its people, there will still be a serious and continuing deterioration. The only adjustable question is, will there be a serious crisis, an absolute catastrophe, or total Armageddon?

In 100 years time, there will almost certainly be far fewer people on the planet than there are now. To a greater or lesser degree the world will be a less hospitable place. How that reduction in population comes about is what I don’t know. It’s possible we’ll all stop having too many kids by the day after tomorrow, in which case the pain will be less than it would otherwise be. It’s more likely that population reduction will be inflicted upon us by violence, famine, disease, or all three.

I am almost certain that, barring a few timely miracles or intervention by a helpful deity (that didn’t end well for the man in the street the last time), very bad stuff will happen. There will not be enough food to go around. There will be a billion or two people–just like Brook Benton’s boll weevil–looking for a home. Where are they going to go? Unfortunately, under-populated and over-resourced New Zealand is likely to be top of their travel agents’ wish lists.

There will be pain.

The first letter is here

One thought on “Letters to my grandchildren: introduction

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