Professor John Guillebaud
14 Hid’s Copse Road
Cumnor Hill
Oxford OX2 9JJ

20 May 2004

I am very sorry that I cannot be with you to mark the tenth anniversary of the Environment Time Capsule Project at Kew Gardens on 12 June.

It would be nice to think that in the last ten years real progress had been made in coping with the problems we then raised. In fact things have gone backwards. In 1994 there seemed to be increasing awareness of the dangers humanity was running. Today people’s minds are elsewhere, and environmental issues, in particular the results of ever increasing human population, seem to have lower priority. In some ways human proliferation can be seen as a maladaptation in which a species, too clever by half, multiplies beyond its natural limitations and does irreparable damage to the ecosystem of which it is no more than a part. But the reckoning cannot be postponed for ever. The longer it is postponed, the greater the damage, including to the species itself.

Our fundamental requirement is to think differently, not only about the Earth as a whole but also about human society and its organization. We still pursue a form of economics in which production of goods and services rather than human wellbeing has priority. Politicians sing hymns to economic growth without knowing what it means. Unlimited growth is the doctrine of the cancer cell. We still need to recognize that our ultimate aim is a society in balance with its resources and the natural world as a whole. Some thirty urban civilizations have already collapsed since the end of the last ice age. There are signs that ours may be going the same way. Future generations will be the judge.

With all good wishes

Crispin Tickell