ecostory 22-2007
Brave New World Revisited

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"Brave New World"
Shakespeare coined the expression - Aldous Huxley made it famous

The playwright of 1611 wrote it probably apologetically for a mixed bag of people in "The Tempest". Miranda, who had never seen people before, exclaims:
    "How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / That has such people in't!"
Miranda speaks from the perspective of someone who has not seen any human being except her father since she was three years old. She is merely delighted by the spectacle of all these people, including crooks and thieves.

The author of 1932 described a distopian future "Brave New World" in which "the savage" finally hangs himself in dispair and disgust:
    Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east. ( Brave New World - last chapter (complete novel) )
Estranging Miranda's words in delight of the economic growth of an imaginary Chindian country - China and India, with presently 9.6 and 6.5 per cent economic growth per annum - a is a real philosophical achievement:
    "Shakespeare might have said: 'O brave new world, that has such countries in't!'" (Martin Wolf in the Financial Times 21 March 2007, page 13)
Shakespeare wouldn't have dreamt of glorifying and merging two countries that are both terribly overpopulated and on a disastrous road of economic expansion and depletion of their lands, waters and air. A poet is too much an observer of human realities and their feeble minds, not to see the folly of this undertaking.

How can one seriously rejoice in one's own prophecy of a generation of continued fast growth, given the present state of the environment and the results one can calculate with mathematical certainty?
China is said to be 5 times behind the developed countries. India would be lagging ten times behind. At an annual economic growth rate of 9.5 per cent, China's economy would be 9.6 times bigger after 25 years. India'a economy would have expanded by 4,8 times.

Now where would the steel, the water and the energy come from to sustain this expansion? Both countries are already overusing their environments and are dependent on imported resources. Ten and five times more of everything, resource depletion and pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. What an insane ideology that can picture such a future as desirable!

Both countries, as in fact the whole planet, do not grow. Irreplaceable fossil liquid energy is running out in the next generation. Fish, forests, potable water, agricultural soils, all are being depleted. Therefore humanity, presently at 6.6 billion people and increasing by 80 million a year, is set to face shortages in all areas - which may well lead to resource wars in a not too distant future.

Shakespeare's lender, Aldous Huxley, "revisited" his novel from 1932, certainly influenced by the second world war that had just ended, with an unprecedented bloodshed of 60 million dead men, women and children.

In his Foreword to the 1946 edition of his 'Brave New World' Aldous Huxley's writes:
    "To-day I feel no wish to demonstrate that sanity is impossible. On the contrary, though I remain no less sadly certain than in the past that sanity is a rather rare phenomenon, I am convinced that it can be achieved and would like to see more of it. For having said so in several recent books and, above all, for having compiled an anthology of what the sane have said about sanity and all the means whereby it can be achieved, I have been told by an eminent academic critic that I am a sad symptom of the failure of an intellectual class in time of crisis. The implication being, I suppose, that the professor and his collegues are hilarious symptoms of success. The benefactors of humanity deserve due honour and commemoration.
    Let us build a Pantheon for professors. It should be located among the ruins of one of the gutted cities of Europe or Japan, and over the entrance to the ossuary I would inscribe, in letters six or seven feet high, the simple words: SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD'S EDUCATORS. SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE" (Huxley 1976, ix-x; capital letters in the original)."
We would not invest a penny in a monument for the academic, business and political opinion leaders. After humanity's die-off on a depleted planet, there will be nobody left to admire the monument.
No, we would rather pay for democratic change and dismissal of the ideologues. They deserve some decent manual jobs where they can experience what growth means and what effort and resources are required.

Helmut Lubbers

Brave New World Revisited
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