One Finite Planet

One Finite Environment: Sustainability vs perpetual growth.

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COP27: Climate change action sabotage?

Reports from COP27 seems indicate the key initiative this year to make wealthy nations cover the cost of the damages poor nations will incur as a result of emissions that have main originated from those wealthy nations.

The proposal as it stands has a missing an essential piece, and trying to cover for that essential piece, appears most to likely to increase emissions, and move COP away from a focus on solving the climate crisis and instead toward just fighting over the cost.

This is a troubled look at the key flaw in what has been put forward and the real solution that should be in place.

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Did Al Gore nail it: Is climate change merely inconvenient, or is it an existential threat?

Claims that +1.5oC warming would be ‘catastrophic’, and that climate change represents an ‘existential threat’ can be quite vague as just what is ‘catastrophic’ or an ‘existential threat’?

This webpaper, seeks to translate ‘catastrophic’ outcomes and ‘existential threats’ into more concrete outcomes.

“We recognise climate change is a serious problem and are committed to net zero by 2050 in order to prevent the disastrous consequences anticipated to occur by around 2026”

Typical government position: Is it ok?

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The Power struggle in Australia.

From “the biggest corruption scandal ever” in Brazil, problems in Venezuela, human rights in Saudi Arabia and Iran, to the problems caused by lobbyists against action on climate change, an abundance of fossil fuels is a source of political power, yet rarely force for good, and Australia, with a wealth of coal and gas, is not spared.

The current crisis in Ukraine not only drives up energy prices globally, but it also creates a dilemma for gas producing nations.

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The environmental impact of the transition to EVs and the potential problems.

There are many claims that EVs result in more emissions than fossil fuelled vehicles. The reality is that even when an EV is powered from a ‘dirty’ grid, it is clear that driving an EV creates less emissions. What is less clear, is whether the emission reduction when driven justifies the emissions that are created when building the EV?

Buying an EV is better for the environment in the long term than buying an ICE vehicle but can be worse for the environment than not buying any new vehicle at all. The key finding is that while it is best to stop buying so many new ICE vehicles ASAP, there should be no rush to replace existing ICE vehicles with EVs, and instead allow existing vehicles the around two decades until their normal scrap date.

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Big Oil, AKA Big Fossil: How real, and what about ‘big climate’?

Yes, big oil with value at over US$7 billion per day in revenue at stake clearly has a vested interest in arguing against climate change and downplaying risks, but on the other hand, aren’t there also vested interests exaggerating and overstating the risks of climate change? Effectively could ‘big renewables’, ‘big science‘ or ‘big climate’, be out lobbying and out promoting ‘big fossil‘?

Is this really a balanced fight, or is it more like the might of ‘big tobacco’ vs ‘whistle blower medical research’ all over again?

This is a look at the financial might on each side of the argument, and the respective motives for each side to overstate their case.

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Covid-19 & Vaccination Deaths: Statistically, Coincidences will distort reported deaths.

I read recently about reasonable people protesting over post vaccination deaths in South Korea, echoing stories from around the globe about the underreporting of deaths following vaccination.

Can most of these deaths be just coincidences? This question has me seeking the real story on what is happening, not just with deaths following vaccination, but also with deaths from the virus. Almost one year after my initial exploration of vaccine efficacy and safety, now there is data, not just projections, so it is time for a review, and this question needs answering for any such a review.

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Table of Contents

We live on planet with a dying biosphere that only will soon end its the brief period of being able to naturally support complex life, yet there is a common assumption that the Earth would always support complex life, with many even wanting to believe even Earth would even support perpetual growth.

Assuming climate change is an existential threat and not merely an inconvenience, then surviving until that pending natural end to complex life is the current challenge, but ignoring the long-term CO2 challenges would only buy time on our dying planet.

Humanity could be nature's cure for a dying biosphere, as long as we don't kill the patient and as adults accept an end to growth.

One Finite Environment: Sustainability vs perpetual growth.

We live on planet with a dying biosphere that only will soon end its the brief period of being able to naturally support complex life, yet there is a common assumption that the Earth would always support complex life, with many even wanting to believe even Earth would even support perpetual growth.

Assuming climate change is an existential threat and not merely an inconvenience, then surviving until that pending natural end to complex life is the current challenge, but ignoring the long-term CO2 challenges would only buy time on our dying planet.

Humanity could be nature's cure for a dying biosphere, as long as we don't kill the patient and as adults accept an end to growth.

Synopsis: First population, then nature, provide huge challenges to sustainability.

Most of us are not even aware that even without the impact of humans in this Anthropocene ear, the planet is already dying, or .

While humans may be ultimately be provide the cure for the long-term environmental problems, without action, our technology and the population explosion could result in the premature death of the patient.

A population explosion creating a sustainability problem is not unique to humans, but with humans the overall picture is more complex.

The pattern often repeated in nature, where a species experiences a population explosion resulting in an unsustainable numbers and environmental damage, normally soon sees numbers return to normal and the environment recover. While some elements of this apply to our current situation, it is more complex, as evidenced by our population seeing long term modest growth even before the population explosion.

The technologies that enabled the population explosion coming ahead of the technologies to sustain that population have created some problems.

The environment faces both immediate, and longer-term problems:

“We now realise that the disasters that continue increasingly to afflict the natural world have one element that connects them all: the unprecedented increase in the number of human beings on the planet.”
  • Immediate:
    1. CO2 emissions and resultant climate change/extreme weather from the burning of fossil fuels.
    2. Other pollution.
    3. Many other species critical for the suffering environment loss, stresses and even potential extinction.
  • Future:
    1. The progressive reduction in biomass from the reduction of CO2 levels required to avoid thermal runaway as solar radiation increases.
    2. Potential partial of full extinction threats from asteroids and meteors, volcanos and gamma-ray bursts.
    3. Inevitable natural total environmental collapse on this planet within as little as around 25 million years.

While, as explained by David Attenborough, all those immediate threats are due to us humans and are so pressing now due to our unprecedented population level, nature itself poses even greater threats in the longer term.

Emissions driving climate change may seem unrelated to population size but imagine the world with 1/4 of the current population. Assuming the same population mix, we would have 1/4 the emissions, providing for a far simpler transition away from fossil fuels.

Every immediate challenge can hopefully be solved even while at our current level of population, there are signs of overpopulation. Solving our environmental problems would be far simpler with a smaller population and would become far more difficult if population increases continue.

Many of our current challenges reflect that while we are currently managing to support numbers following the population explosion, we are currently doing so whilst effectively borrowing from future generations by doing so unsustainably. At some point, the damaged bill will need to be repaid.

Returning to sustainability is not our only problem, as the total biosphere size supported by the planet is in decline, and it could be said that the planet is dying. Time for life on Earth is also finite, and there is far less available than most people imagine, with less than 2% of time remaining for complex life on Earth.

Did we really think the Sun remains exactly as it is now for 5 million more years and then just suddenly explodes? Or that if the Sun is definitely going to explode, it must already be progressing towards that eventual explosion. It tuns out it could be as little as 25 million years along that marks and end for complex life like humans on Earth. Plus, it is not that 25 million years is perfection that comes to an overnight end either.

While even 1 million years is a long time for humanity, it is also almost certainly long enough to solve the problem of why cells age, triggering a second population crisis. Near elimination of childhood mortality requires a reduction in birthrate to around 2 children per couple, near elimination of old age mortality would require a much more drastic solution.

Unlike the current environmental challenges, the longer terms ones are not simply solved by humans stopping interfering with nature. In the long term, the only solution is to interfere with nature, and it is going to require far more developed technology than we possess today. Eventually, humanity will need to master the environment.

Sustainability in the traditional sense is not enough.


How long is needed to qualify as ‘sustainable’?

Most definitions of sustainable are vague.

Since nothing lasts forever, we cannot even properly define sustainability without deciding on a time frame.

This core problem with ‘sustainability’ is clear from the Wikipedia page:

Sustainability is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely co-exist on planet Earth over a long time.

Sustainability: Wikipedia

Many people initially assume sustainability should mean indefinitely, but as we also understand that even the Sun would last forever, then there are some limitations. But what limitations define “a long time”?

Just what constitutes ‘a long time’?

To a five-year-old, an hour is a long time. As we get older, the perception of what is ‘a long time’ stretches with our time horizons.

Dilophosaurus: Dinosaurs co-existed for over 100 million years.

A ‘long time’ is relative. Dinosaurs ‘co-existed’ on planet Earth for a ‘long time’. So long that there was almost 130 million years between the time of earlier dinosaurs such as Dilophosaurus that lived 190 million years ago, and the time when Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed the planet 66 million years ago. This makes T-Rex almost twice as close to our time, as T-Rex was to the time of earlier dinosaurs.

On that basis, a ‘long time’ could be as long as over 100 million years.

However, the reality is, life on Earth is on the decline even without humans damaging the environment, and while there may be some life left 100 million years even nature will not sustain complex for 100 million years,

All thing considered, a ‘long time’ could be for ‘as long as Earth will naturally support human life’.

Does sustainability stretch to humans preserving life beyond its natural end?

Considering that nature will only support the existence of humans for as little as 25 million years, and for that entire time support for complex life would be decreasing, if humans have not prematurely orchestrated their own demise and continue to advance technology, self-preservation alone would require interfering with nature and finding a way to extend support for complex life on Earth.

Perhaps ‘sustainability’ should be extended to ensuring the life of Earth is sustained for as long as possible?

History of sustainability: Humanity’s journey to grok One Finite Planet.

The very concept of sustainability requires seeing the Earth as a finite environment.

While right throughout documented history there have been people who realised the Earth was finite (Eratosthenes), only recently did it seem any humans felt significant enough to fully grok the implications. Finite in area, finite in resources and finite in the time the Earth will support human life.

While the usage of the term sustainable for long term use of a natural resource dates back to  Hans Carl von Carlowitz in 1713, it was not something most people were considering, even after 10 centuries of human civilization.

It was in the 1970s, at the height of the population explosion, when Green political parties first emerged that it became clear that sustainability became a key issue for a significant number of people.

Articles on the history of sustainability:

Before 1650: A Seemingly Infinite Planet with no concept of “Sustainability”.

But for the whole of human history until very recently, it seemed there would always be the possibility of new territories to claim, and undiscovered parts of the globe to explore. For almost all of history, for us humans the planet has been so vast, with so much of it unknown, that the planet felt infinite.

Modern humans have existed for at least 300,000 years, but it is only in the most recent 350 years, that any human has known even known the shape of the continents of the world, and yet for the last around 30 years every individual now see a photo image of every square kilometre of each of those continents.

Prior to Columbus sailing to the Americas, many in Europe were not even certain the world was a sphere. Even after Columbus, reached the ‘East Indies’, he was completely unaware of what lay between where he had reached and India, and even less idea of the Southern hemisphere.

Prior to 1650, a significant number of people in different countries could not even accurately picture the planet entire planet and appreciate the surface was finite, and not until the 20th century that the term ‘sustainability’ attracted significant attention, and people started to appreciate how resources are finite.

To most life on Earth, including people prior to around 1650 CE, the planet appeared, if not infinite, then at least unknowable. For people in the past, it seemed that it did not matter what they did to the environment, because the environment was so vast it could always recover and there were always new and unexplored lands.

From Infinite Planet To Finite Planet.

Before 1650 CE, people lived on an ‘infinite’ planet:

  • Living sustainably seems to require zero restrictions.
  • The earth had not been fully explored and mapped – no individual human even knew of all the continents, and for every society, there new continents of unknown size to be discovered.
  • There was always more ‘unused’ land, not just as nature reserves but land considered unused and available to be used if the need ever arose.
  • As populations slowly increased, there would then be additional people to unlock additional resources, as sufficient labour is already available for farming, mining etc
  • The earth had not been fully explored and mapped – there even new continents of unknown size to be discovered. to discover
  • There was ‘unused’ land, not just as nature reserves but considered unused because only nature reserves remain in their natural state, and we need those nature reserves as they are
  • additional people no longer unlock additional resources, as sufficient labour is already available for farming, mining etc

1650 to 1900: The transition to a global society.

Prior to 1650, there were still entire societies unknown to each other. Through the period to 1900, the world became better and better mapped. No one had quite yet reached the South Pole, as that waited until 1911. But people knew it existed.

The ‘New World‘, at least to Europeans, of North and South America was joined by Australasia, as huge areas of land that, although fully populated by their established societies, were seen by Europeans as effectively unoccupied.

Most of the world had no enforced borders, or rules of citizenship as we know them today, and immigration meant deciding to go to a new land.

As European society expanded into new territories, there was land to be farmed, mineral wealth to be discovered, for a time, every additional person in the new societies of the new world allowed for increased utilisation of natural resources and access to new wealth.

The 20th Century: Enter Sustainability and increasing perception of land and resources as finite.

While it had always previously appeared that there would always be new areas of land for housing, new oceans to fish, and more place to store any waste, in the century more realities became clear. While previously pollution was a problem only within a local area, and the solution was simply to move the waste elsewhere.

People started to fear a resource that became scarce in one location, may not forever just be able to be found given elsewhere and not always only a matter of new exploration.

Green politics emerged, and sustainability moved from academia to the mainstream.

By the end of the 20th century, the situation had changed. More people no longer are required to access all available resources, and now the only question is who is to be allowed access to which of the world’s resources.

A key part of what it is to be human has been exploration. The line from Star Trek: ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’. While there are still places to explore in the depths of the oceans, prior to the 20th century, there were still explorers on land reaching previously unexplored or unreached destinations.

The 20th century saw humans first reach beyond our one finite planet. When we think of the great explorations of the future, we are now looking beyond our own planet.

The Finite Planet of the 21st Century: Still many do not grasp that the Earth as finite.

Today in the 21st century, humans can all know of the entire planet, and we recognise all territories as either ‘owned’ by some country, or under international treaty.

Yet there are still many people calling for population growth, in what is a clear sign that many people still to not get the implications of the planet being finite.

Seeing the world as finite is a revolution from the approach that has worked for 300,000 years.

The planet has always been finite but dealing with that is new.

Reality is, our planet will only remain habitable for as little of 25 million years, can only house a finite number of people at any one time, and no resource is truly infinite. However, we do need to ensure resources that would otherwise be consumed in the time available, have a pathway to being renewed or recycled.

Every resource on the planet is finite, but for most of history, every resource was assumed to be at the planet level inexhaustible.

Once we set a time frame of even 25 million years, then we can determine which resources, such as iron, we can genuinely assume to be inexhaustible, and which others, such as oxygen in the air, that we have been treating as inexhaustible so far, do still need consideration.

We are becoming aware that fresh water is not infinite, and nor is the ability of the environment to absorb plastics or the air absorb CO2 without ramifications, but as recently as within the 20th century, neither of those problems seemed to fit within people’s time horizons.

Some are still even thinking about a finite earth with respect to plastic waste or greenhouse gas pollution even today. For many people, there is no timeline.


We can’t really even properly define ‘sustainable‘ without a framework that provides a bigger picture.

Consider the mission:

One Finite Planet is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely co-exist on planet Earth whilst all working towards overcoming the limits of existing on only one finite planet.

Humanity needs goals and this is more a mission statement than tangible goals to pursue, but if the mission could be adopted by enough people, then there can be collaborative work on the goals.


  • *2023 April 7 th: Synopsis.
  • *2022 October 2: Added mission.
  • 2021 December 12: First version.