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Summary:

With market bubbles, the truth about risks is simply too painful to confront, Denis Hayes said at the Ceres conference in San Francisco this morning. It’s no different with our current “ecological bubble,” he said, explaining that no one wants to confront the real risks and […]

With market bubbles, the truth about risks is simply too painful to confront, Denis Hayes said at the Ceres conference in San Francisco this morning. It’s no different with our current “ecological bubble,” he said, explaining that no one wants to confront the real risks and costs of how we’re burning through finite natural resources. Hayes was the brains behind the first Earth Day back in 1970, and he’s now president and CEO of the $100 million Bullitt Foundation in Seattle. Exposing painful ecological truths — and what they mean for the economy — is what he does. So today he talked about a “one-man anti-stimulus package” and zero population growth. Yeah, he went there.

“Mother Nature does not do bailouts,” Hayes said. “Sooner or later, Mother Nature is going to come and break your kneecaps.” Avoiding or postponing ecological collapse as a result of climate change, he said, means coming to terms with the planet’s limited resources and carrying capacity. We simply have too many humans, Hayes said, although he stopped short of proposing a way to slow population growth.

Hayes’s anti-stimulus package involves shifting the economy to one that can thrive on reuse and repair, rather than constant consumption — investing in one pair of better-quality shoes and making them last with repairs rather than six pairs of lower-quality shoes for the same cost, for example.

What’s interesting about Hayes’s ideas is not so much their controversial nature (feel free to debate them in the comments below), but the context of their presentation. He delivered his keynote this morning before an audience of environmentalists, sure, but also global corporate giants. Hayes began his talk with mention of the fact that Ceres held its first meetings, two decades ago, in “greasy pizza parlors.” Now it’s in the grand ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel.

By Josie Garthwaite

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  1. What we need are fewer people trying to stop climate change and more people trying to figure out how to deal with the changing climate. Climate change may be natural or man made but rather than wringing our hands and trying to reverse course we need to think and plan ahead. What to do IF the oceans rise, IF the tempertures increase, IF there is widespread deforestation.

    What we are seeing now is arguably the result of a warming trend since the last mini ice age, or it could be man made carbon emissions.

    Certainly we need to be more green and more clean — that has been the case since 1970. It helps the planet and the people. But we really need to spend some energy dealing with the reality that we are staring at.

    @mikearama

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  2. The Investment Community has profited mightily in the past 20 years, and CERES there.. So much for the mystery of why they are in the Farimont. Meanwhile, yes, disposable lighters were controversial when they were introduced, as were disposable pens. Why? Because they so obviously defied common sense about how to run this world of markets.. but they are profitable, and no one said no.. So how many pens do you have at your desk? I have about hmmm 50? Multiply by all manner of goods.. see where this goes.. There is a lot to do..

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  3. I agree with the basic premise. I have no idea why we, as a society, won’t even discuss this.

    Take any given region: a city, a state or province, a country, or the whole world, and somehow through major investment in infrastructure and change of habits, reduce its per capita greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource consumption by half in, say, 35 years. If, during that same time, the population doubles, you didn’t decrease anything!

    My take is to tax income when you have children. A small tax, say, 5% for your first kid, another 10% on your 2nd, but from there, it goes up steeply – 25% for the third, etc.

    If people really want to have lots of kids, they can, but they’ll pay for them, not just in the additional food, clothes, potential college bills, etc. Make it a tax for life.

    Of course, no one will go for that. Not even for the 3rd and subsequent children. Impinges on our rights, they will say.

    Sadly, the planet is likely to eventually impose population restrictions on us, and our population will drop.

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  4. You guys trying to revise history, Ira Einhorn, the man who murdered his ex-girlfriend and went to France, is the founder of Earth Day. Tells you something about the origins of this day. No one should trash the planet, but most of what is going on today in the name of “Green” is a new religion, chicken little, the sky is falling mentality. The earth heats and cools in cycles. Change your paradigm and bias’ and look at evidence from another vantage point. Enough said.

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  5. Why is it there dosen’t seem to be any mention of Ira Einhorn as the founder of Earth Day in any of the Earth Day literature? Remember he’s the guy that killed his girlfriend and stuffed her in a trunk for two years. Get off the kool aid already.

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  6. Just for the record…

    Ira Einhorn has not been the founder of Earth Day.He just claimed he did…
    Denis hayes has also not been the founder of Earth Day,or the brain behind the idea…
    The real driving force in the creation of the 1st.
    Earth Day back in 1970 has been working on it since early 1960′s. The late Senator Gaylord Nelson has been the founder of Earth Day. He has selected Denis Hayes to be coordinator of activities.

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