Too many damn people?

It’s exam day– see my general study advice *below, students– but we’re also talking markets & growth in EEA. I’ve asked everyone to identify highlights.

One, for me, is the quote of Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken from Natural Capitalism“Markets are only tools. They make a good servant but a bad master and a worse religion.”

Another, from Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling: “human life, health, and nature cannot be described meaningfully in monetary terms… market values tell us little about the social values at stake.”

And how about this dated howler: “Mark Sagoff has noted that while markets can and do fail, society does not intervene to correct market failure.”

And then, of course, the infamous classic Limits to Growth.   Jonathan Franzen said it succinctly, in Freedom: “too many damn people on the planet.”

Right. Last one to leave, please turn out the lights.

Franzen’s Freedom, btw, has much to say about environmentalism vs. market-driven capitalist consumerism. Much that’s sad, funny, and true. If there aren’t too many of us yet, there certainly are too many of us eager to remove mountaintops and frack the hell out of our interior.

One more astonishing note from EEA: a student posts that he went to register to vote and in the process discovered the Greens, whom he’d never heard of. My thought: it’s a sad commentary on the ineffectiveness of environmentalism in our time, in this culture ,when an informed and engaged young person can possibly not even have heard of the so-called Movement’s main electoral instrument.

In CoPhi we’ll see what anyone wants to discuss today, nothing new is on our agenda. For my part, I’m still trying to decide if I’ve been too charitable to Pascal in compensating for years of neglect due to exasperation with his ill-considered Wager.

There truly is lots more to his philosophy than that little marvel of spiritual disingenuity, and as I sift through his Pensees I continue to discover gems like this:

So there is open war among men, in which each must take a part, and side either with dogmatism or scepticism. For he who thinks to remain neutral is above all a sceptic. This neutrality is the essence of the sect; he who is not against them is essentially for them…What then shall man do in this state? Shall he doubt everything? Shall he doubt whether he is awake, whether he is being pinched, or whether he is being burned? Shall he doubt whether he doubts? Shall he doubt whether he exists? We cannot go so far as that; and I lay it down as a fact that there never has been a real complete sceptic. Nature sustains our feeble reason, and prevents it raving to this extent.

Nature does sustain, and our own nature typically saves us from our worst flights of dogmatism and skepticism. She abhors a vacuum-head.

But the deeper in debt to cover his God-&-heaven bet Pascal goes, the more his thoughts read to me as a rant and a rave. He sounds increasingly like a desperate player who can’t afford to push away from the table  and the casino.  “If man is not made for God, why is he only happy in God?” Speak for yourself, Blaise.

And now for something completely different, just to put everyone in the mood for an exam. “Tell us the answer. Something simple.”

* Here’s the best test-prep advice I can pass along:

If you want really to do your best in an examination, fling away the book the day before, say to yourself, “I won’t waste another minute on this miserable thing, and I don’t care an iota whether I succeed or not.” Say this sincerely, and feel it; and go out and play, or go to bed and sleep, and I am sure the results next day will encourage you to use the method permanently. William James, “Gospel of Relaxation

If you’ve been up all night cramming, in other words, good luck. You’ll need it. But if you’ve been diligent, have steeped yourself in the subject all semester long, and either went out to play or to an early bed last night, your luck will be the residue of design. You’ll do fine.

But don’t try too hard to relax.

It is needless to say that that is not the way to do it. The way to do it, paradoxical as it may seem, is genuinely not to care whether you are doing it or not.

Care tomorrow. Today, just show up and do your best.

And then get started on those midterm reports. The way you do that is write a sentence. Then write another one. Repeat, edit, repeat…

Or you could do a presentation.


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