Sunday, August 29, 2010

Island Bay World Service

Welcome to the Island Bay World service.

This blog provides an introduction to our activities and to our concerns. The world is a big and complex place, and many real limits to human activity are approaching. That is well based on hard science. As the UK chief scientist said recently in a warning to that Government, “we head into a perfect storm in 2030, because all of these things are operating on the same time frame.” So we have a great deal to talk about, and a number of issues are explored on companion sites.

You will find here a copy of our Manifesto and a list of our blogs dealing with a variety of topics. These include the text of a flyer which we hand out at other meetings to inform and attract interest.


John Robinson has written and Tross Publishing has published A plague of people, which brings together all previous global science, forecasting and understanding of the forces that control the world and make a crash around 2030 (already under way) inevitable.  This makes use of  Island Bay discussions and publications.  Information on this book, in hard copy and as a free ebook, is at, along with a listing of John's other recent books.

Our meetings are normally at 6 pm on the first Monday of each month.  For information send an email to John Robinson at

This painting by Lois White speaks clearly of our preferred leisure and conserver society, with a focus on security and contentment.

This is our stand at the Transition Towns Environment Week 2009 in the Cathedral.



Speaking out

The history of life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings . . . Only within the movement of time represented by the present century has one species acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world
Rachel Carson, ‘Silent Spring’ (1962) p. 2

The global environment crisis is, as we say in Tennessee, real as rain, and I cannot stand the thought of leaving my children with a degraded earth and a diminished future Al Gore, ‘Earth in Balance’ (1992) p.16


We will publicise the extent of the set of interlocking crises now evident on the world stage and call for adequate action from the public, other environmental groups and government (both local and national). In doing so we will speak where necessary outside the current conventional wisdom with its emphasis on growth and ‘business as usual’.


We are as a group joined round a table to share a meal when a call of ‘fire!’ is heard, to be met with general denial, with a response of ‘go away we are busy’. The meal continues uninterrupted. The problem will become truly critical when the fire reaches the dining room – too late to stop its spread.

We repeat the Churchillian experience of calling people to wake to a looming danger while crowds cheer Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” celebration on his return from talking with Hitler.

So we live in two worlds with a split reality. In one world we understand that the world is deeply troubled by human activity, and we read each day of events describing the extent of the current global crisis. In the other, we hear calls for growth – of economies, population, and work – and see large vehicles parked in rows outside the supermarket. One world tells us of a looming oil shortage, the other acclaims V8 Supercar races in city streets, glorifying useless consumption.

The fire which was threatening is now upon us. Those many global problems are no longer a problem for the future, but have become daily experience. Meanwhile denial continues.

We will repeat the efforts of the awake few of previous generations and call for awareness, and action. We will be the ‘think global’ addition to ‘act local’ initiatives, asking others to think of the whole and to ‘walk on two legs’ as complete human beings instead of fiddling while Rome burns around us.

The world in trouble

The world is within a set of interlocking crises. This is not a forecast for a troubling future, but a description of the current reality. Those events are reported daily in the media, and include:

· Climate change is occurring and ice is melting at both poles.
· The price of oil has boomed and shortages can be foreseen as the peak of global oil production passes.
· This is nothing new. When the USA oil production reached its peak in 1970, that set the scene for the subsequent oil price rises, shortages and carless days.
· The war over oil in Iraq is the most recent of the many struggles over oil supplies.
· The world population continues its growth, adding 3 billion (3,000,000,000) each 40 years – from 3 billion in 1960 to 6 billion in 2000 and 9 billion in 2040. The projected failure to feed that number threatens starvation, disease and war.
· Most recently the production of subsidised biofuels has taken land from food production. Food stocks are dwindling, and food prices are soaring.
· The development of China and India, and their efforts to join the over-developed world, put greater strain on finite resources and pollution stains the air of Peking.

The full extent of the crisis now (in 2008) can be understood when we recall that 36 years ago in 1972 “The limits to growth”, a report to the Club of Rome, forecast a series of global crises (leading to possible mass starvation and population collapse) for around 2030 – while failing to take into account the of an oil-based economy, and not knowing of global warming (which became recognised in the 1980s). The situation has become much worse since 1972 and yet we live in a civilization with a continuing fixation on growth – in both population and economic activity. This is a flat earth society, on a world without end, not awake to the finite nature of a spherical planet.

It is too late to stop these trends, and the point of widespread damage has been passed. Sustainable growth is an oxymoron. Indeed a move to sustainability is now impossible, under any reasonable definition of that slippery word. The issue is now survival.

A moral imperative
As Al Gore pointed out in his film “An inconvenient truth”, any decision on the wise use of a finite resource such as fossil fuels, must be based on a moral imperative. The current growth mentality of global capitalism is based such a moral judgement – to use resources as fast as possible, to build a non-sustainable society on a resource base which will soon be gone, and to rob future generations of their share.

We find ourselves living on a finite planet. People have increased in numbers until we now occupy all the space available. The increase in knowledge has led to an economic development which provides a high standard of living for many, but which has now reached the limits of the possible. In that process peoples have changed the surface of the globe and driven many species into extinction. Now a series of species extinctions is happening.

That rule and control bring a responsibility for the well-being of other species as well as other peoples, and that responsibility for the whole is shared by every community of every size - from Island Bay to Wellington city and the nation of New Zealand.

This requires action. As oil is in short supply, we should act to conserve and reduce use at every level. As the world population is far past any sustainable limit, we should act to stabilise and then reduce our numbers. And much more, as growth could be replaced by a stable and caring conserver society

A way forward

Many current statements and activities directed at ‘sustainability’ are little more than displacement activities, quite minimal and out of proportion to the challenge – the only outcome being to act out a concern and assuage anxieties without any real impact on the global crisis.

Since global warming is caused by the use of fossil fuels, the need is to reduce that use considerably – not to take up the displacement activity of trading in carbon credits (where those who were planting trees anyway get an extra income while those who should cut production of greenhouse gases continue business as usual and pass the cost of the credits on to the customer), nor to waste effort on dreaming up a fart tax on cows, or the like. In any case, the cost of oil will go on rising while the availability will be sharply curtailed by both the limits of supply and the efforts of those more powerful than us to get their hands on a dwindling resource. There must be added taxes on larger personal vehicles, requirements of fuel efficiency on new vehicles, carless days and a ban on wasteful use of fuels such as motor races.

The entire world must stabilise and then reduce population to a fraction of its present size. Us too. We must encourage small families and accept childless couples as playing a positive role. Town planning must be based on a preferred population for each area, and not predicated – as now – on a desire for growth.

A debate is urgently needed to develop ideas of a new economic and social philosophy to replace growth-oriented market- based global capitalism, building on those systems which have worked in the past – and in particular the post-war New Zealand mixed economy (which was destroyed in 1984).

Since that debate was lively in the 1970s, we may reach back to the ideas of that era. When new technologies were improving so rapidly, many thinkers imagined a shorter working week, making good use of the improved efficiencies. Why did that not happen? A leisure society, a conserver society, is possible. In so many ways, a society of reduced consumption, without the pressures of growth in population and consumption, will be a better place to live in, with the emphasis on quality of life and equality of material wealth. That is our moral society.

Our actions must be forthright to capture the attention of a public bombarded with calls to consume and borrow, told to live selfishly with no thought for tomorrow or understanding of where we have been heading. We intend the radical, challenging voice that is needed to stir up discussion on issues like population control and to take a quite hard-line approach on issues. We will stimulate the required debate and build a blueprint for survival in the coming decades of global stress.

Cars at the End of an Era: Transport Issues in the New Zealand Greenhouse

John Robinson has written ‘Cars at the End of an Era: Transport Issues in the New Zealand Greenhouse’ for Friends of the Earth.
The oil era is coming to a close and the resulting greenhouse gases are threatening catastrophic climate change. The message that we should reduce our use of cars has long been ignored and now a reduction will be forced upon us. This book places the car firmly in the New Zealand setting, with many facts telling of our own carelessness. The discussion deals with many factors, including the frequent misleading presentation of information. It does not dodge contentious issues such as the loss of employment as travel is reduced. The coming transition demands positive collective action, which is not possible while we live in denial with our heads in the sand. Join us for a drink to launch an unwelcome argument whose time has come.

IBWS Blogs on many topics

The flyer, or pamphlet, that we give away, has been rewritten and is at .

An unpublished 1977 DSIR note on the false criticism of "The llimits to growth" is found at
The text of our booklet Twenty years to disaster is found at
An introduction to our publication NZ 2030, the world’s lifeboat is found at

An essay on the global economic crisis and the leisure society is found at
An essay critical of the Treaty of Waitangi in the law is found at
A policy statement is found at
An essay on our philosophy (‘Heroes for our time’) is found at
An essay on A slice of history - one long lifetime; This world in 1940 - 2040 is found at
Musings on the two very different worlds we live in by John Robinson at
Critical comments on capitalism by Austin Brookes at
Comments on some of the meetings we have attended at
Quotes that caught our eye at