The Next Big Question

When I first started working in the environment in the 1980s, population and consumption were integral to sustainable development discussions. The former was fraught with raging debates, deeply held values, gender and equity,never mind evoking reactions from one of the most powerful religions in the world. This article resurrects some important questions about over-population, although one can't really discuss the issue without also talking about over-consumption.

Recently, a dear colleague asked me "what is the next big question", assuming of course, we are now going to seriously address climate change adaptation and mitigation. I think it will be about the biggest elephant in the room--limits. Why, limits? Because as a species we have denied limits for too long--to growth, to the fact that we live in a finite biosphere, to scale, even to our own mortality. We all believe we will die peacefully in our sleep when we are in our late 80s. It is time we woke up and begin to ask the right questions about the limits to growth, and what it means for human societies. Perhaps it can be 'pictured' as the difference between growth and development, the former is about adolescene and the latter is about adulthood.

So, is the next big question about the meaning of limits and spatial justice for human societies?