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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 14. 1970

...leads to intolerable individual stress

...leads to intolerable individual stress.

There are, however, implications for human psychology. It is not by shortage of space and resources nor by massive biosphere toxicity that the limits of our civilization (if it will not limit itself) are most likely to be set, but by the effects of human numbers, technological and cultural change, and environmental degradation on the psychology of people. Crowding does not improve the quality of human beings and human relationships; and the provision of the individuals with technological power, notably the automobile, may increase the sense of subjugation to traffic, noise, pollution, and urban interminableness as products of crowding. The individual is to a degree diminished in his sense of a manageable world to which he can relate by the enormity of cities and their problems, by isolation from natural landscapes, by rapidity of cultural change, by participation in a perceptibly small role in perceptibly enormous social and corporate systems. One suspects that to bear well the conditions of urban life with its increasing scale, crowding, complexity, and bleakness there is increasing need of qualities of secure self-respect, patience and perspective, tolerance and maturity, that urban life does not now much encourage.

I will suggest the predicament of our society: A system of accelerating growth and increasing complexity is stretching ever tighter its means of organization, while producing social and environmental problems ever more difficult and beyond realistic prospects of solution, while increasing the tensions and frustrations of the human beings who must maintain the organization and try to deal with the problems, while producing increasing numbers who scorn the system and its complexities without a rational sense of the limitations on alternatives, while producing small but increasing numbers of human beings sufficiently damaged as such that they desire the ruin of the society which, for all they can understand, is responsible. I find this, if true unencouraging system of simultaneous, nonlinear, differential equations.

I will observe in judgment only that our civilization is the first in history to have available scientific knowledge in the two areas of ecology and psychology that might have given warning, and that whatever counsel these fields might have offered a civilization based on intelligence was thought irrelevant.

If the implications for stability of our civilization are these then I wish us all — our great, open society and its professional workers in the fields of the rational mind — luck.

R.H. Whittaker