Thursday, September 1, 2011

Do we need a Georgia Guidestone?

Andrew D Atkin

We need to set boundaries - Not tell people what kind of light bulbs they can use.

Someone with lots of cash put up a Stonehenge style monument in Georgia, USA, which looks like a constitutional wish-list for humanity's relationship to nature, and itself.

Here is the list inscribed on the stone:


1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.


What I like about the Georgia guidestones is the principle of forming a functional constitution to definitively establish humanity's relationship with the natural world. I believe there is room for this. If humanity does not specify its relationship to the natural world then there's nothing concrete to stop our species from potentially over-running it.

Worst case scenario would be reducing the entire planet to a global farm resulting from uncontrolled population growth and/or irresponsible government, or massive toxic contamination from irresponsible commercial risk-taking, etc. [And this is our latest morbid example. How many more can we withstand?].

However, if we're going to form an 'ultimate' ecologically-focused constitution then it needs to be "hard" and not "soft". What I mean by this is that it needs to be like any proper contract: Strictly specific with no or only minimal room for subjective interpretation. On this level the Georgia guidestones are a poor example. Although some of its assertions are clear, statements like "Avoid petty laws and useless officials" can mean anything to anyone, all depending on your perspective.

Poorly specified laws are dangerous because that which is open to interpretation is open to abuse. Not only can vague definitions make laws fail to enforce what they are [apparently] intended to enforce, they can also be abused so as to enforce that which they should not be enforcing.

Humanity does need to clearly define its relationship to the natural world, I believe. We need to define the 'acceptable' human footprint and the boundaries of that footprint. And it needs to be intelligently and comprehensively considered. Over simplistic Georgia guidestone type statements will never do.

For example, declaring that we should have no more than 500,000,000 people living on this earth, as though that should be an absolute goal, is nonsense because the human footprint does not need to be toxic. We can develop an abundant, healthy and sustainable biosphere with billions of people alive and kicking. And by using advancing technologies we could probably get our population to the tens of billions in time. Hence, it would be better not to define population absolutes but simply to define limits in terms of the human footprint. We should define basic limits on toxic spill-off into water, land and air, and acceptable deforestation levels, etc. If we can comfortably put ever more people into that given specified boundary then that should be fine.


Again, you want to keep the eco-constitution highly specific to environmental fundamentals, otherwise it will be used and abused to drive political ends which may have no sincere grounding in positive environmental practice. A classic example of the latter is with what is termed Smart Growth. Smart Growth claims to be about the positive environmentalism, but with objective analysis we can see that it quite blatantly is not. It is deep social and/or economic engineering, abusing the public's environmental concern to justify the forced changes. "Smart growth" is the kind of thing that can, does and will happen when you don't develop an eco-constitution that links directly to the fundamental status of the natural world.

So yes, let's develop some kind of Georgia guidestone, but do it PROPERLY. We should clearly define our environmental boundaries, but in a way that does not allow our environmental concern to be used as a tool for rouge political and financial interests. Indeed, a well developed eco-constitution should protect us from the latter, making environmentalism a practice - not a weapon.

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