A New Ethic for Humankind by Fred G. Thompson - HTML preview

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Copyright  March 2009 Fred G. Thompson

Published by Futurescan Consulting

Ottawa, Canada

Printed in Canada

ISBN No. 978-0-9696624-4-0



"It is wise to look ahead, but it is difficult to look further ahead than you can see."

Winston Churchill


A New Ethic for Humankind


The purpose of this book is to show that in view of the increasing population, energy shifts, resource con- sumption and pollution, the creation of a sustainable world will need massive change in human attitudes and actions, in fact a ‘‘new ethic’ for humankind.

The 21st century emerged with a gradually increas- ing public awareness that the world was entering a trou- bling age and we had better pay attention if we wanted to be assured of a sustainable future. It was pointed out as early as 1972 by Dennis and Donella Meadows that there are ‘‘Limits to Growth’’1) and if we were to continue at the then current rate of consumption of the Earths resources we would not have a sustainable world in the longer range future. Aurelio Peccei, the founder of the Club of Rome- which commissioned the Meadows’ book - called for a ‘‘New Ethic for Mankind and that is what this present document presents as a new and significant reality.

The Golden Age of Greece, from around 500 to 300 BC, was built on the energy of slaves. We are now in another Golden Age blessed with energy from an abun- dant supply of oil and natural resources. But this will of course not be so in the longer range future. Warning signs are abundantly apparent. We will need to plan now for a true transition to a new age and a new ethics is defined in Webster’s dictionary as:

"The discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation", or "The principles of conduct governing an individual or a group."

It is the principles of conduct that have to be changed to create the New Ethic.

The transition from a growth society that we in the developed countries presently enjoy, to one with a stable world population and economic sustainability could re- quire the greatest evolutionary change in the history of humankind. The changing conduct and ethical base of the worlds population must indeed change.   This is no exaggeration as will be pointed out in the text that follows. This book therefore will show why this is so and why we must begin now to find ways to ease this transition for the good of the future of the human species on this finite planet.

As Marshall McLuhan was heard to say, if a system is too successful it will flip on itself. As our societies get more complex they are very likely to do just that.

Another way to express this phenomenon is to look at the Chaos Theory 2). By this process, a system (society, population growth, etc.) will be proceeding along a smooth path when some perturbation is introduced and it goes into wild disarray, or chaos.

The Queuing Theory can also be described as useful to understand how systems can collapse. Take for exam- ple a large metropolitan city that depends on constant delivery of supplies beyond its borders to feed itself. Think of a shortage of fuel available to the transport trucks and what could happen to the supplying of a citys needs.

The Queuing Theory says that a small restriction in supply can not just slow the process by a small percentage, but that it comes to a complete stop. For example, a busy highway is loaded to capacity but flowing rapidly. Then some car or truck slows down to look at an accident at the side of the road. No obstruction is in the way of the flow, but it has been slowed by a very small percentage and the whole system comes to a dea stop. Similarly, the housewife stocks up on sugar when it is announced that sugar will be rationed. Result no more sugar on the shelves and the system shuts down. When such a phenomenon occurs to supplying a large city, it may well shut down. A power blackout is an example of such an overloaded system and consequent shutdown. Now, all this is to give a glimpse of what could happen as resources worldwide get in short supply.   The urgency then is apparent and must be dealt with well before it happens.

Another phenomenon of the future is the ‘‘lifeboat principle’ or Triage. In this case a lifeboat is loaded with people and others in the sea are clamouring to climb in. If compassion rules and the residents of the lifeboat try to let them in, then most likely all will be lost. So, the fortunate few must be preserved and the others let go. Cruel it seems, but otherwise all will be lost. All this is part of the content of a ‘‘New Ethic’ and must be learned in the long term interest of a sustainable planet and indeed the human species.

In 1995 Charlotte Waterlow produced the book The Hinge of History 3)    It told about the mega-change that occurred in Western history due to a shift from depend- ence on God, to explain the things we dont understand, to the new discoveries of scienceIt was the Renaissance or rebirth, or Enlightenment for Western society.

It would appear now that the years 2008-9 represent a similar shift in Western thinking that is an equally major change. A second hinge of history. At the same time globalization has arrived, accelerated by the speed of communications, information and transportation.  This shift is accompanied by climate change, population growth, increasing resource consumption and beginning to see the ‘‘limits to growth’’.

Th fol lowi n C hapt e w il pres ent the‘‘Cassandras of the past that have warned us of the directions that the world is going. This will show the urgency of re-structuring the course ahead.




1) Meadows, Dennis and Donella, Limits to Growth Potomac Associates, Washington, D.C., 1972

2) Gleick, James, Chaos - Making a New Science, Penguin Group, New York, N.Y., 1987  (see formula on Page 70 of "Chaos")

3) Waterlow, Charlotte, The Hinge of History The One World Trust, Great Britain, 1995

4) see Chapter 1 that follows