- What is the “Scale Problem”?
Scale problems refer to the threats posed to global life support systems such as the atmospheric ozone layer’s protection against ultraviolet radiation, and the carbon cycle’s provision of climate stability.
Human activities are now threatening these natural systems at both the local and global levels, for the first time in the history of the planet. (See Understanding Scale
for an introduction to scale concepts and the dynamics of relevant ecosystems).
- Why is the Scale Problem Important?
Scale problems are pervasive and unprecedented. The life support systems addressed by the scale issue are essential and irreplaceable ecosystem services that literally make life on earth possible. If these life support services are damaged beyond repair, then life on earth as we know it will end. There are currently many scale related problems that are unprecedented in human history, and that will irrevocably damage these life support functions if not corrected. (See Importance of Scale
for a discussion of the various reasons why scale problems are of vital interest).
- What Are Some Examples of the Scale Problem?
The A, B, Cs of the scale problem are
- Atmospheric Ozone Depletion (which is allowing harmful ultraviolet radiation to reach the earth’s surface)
- Biodiversity Loss (which is removing species 100 to 1000 times faster than at any previous time in the history of the planet)
- Climate Change (which is threatening to disrupt global climate stability upon which all life depends).
Any one of these major global system changes would be a challenge in itself, but they are occurring together, and each is affecting the other.
There are many other life support systems which are threatened in addition to these better known ones (see Areas of Concern
for a more complete background of areas of major concern).
- What is Causing Scale Problems?
Scale problems are caused by the physical size of the global economy; the sheer volume and toxicity of the mass of physical materials that are moved or transformed in normal economic production cycles are disrupting the ecosystems that provide global life support services.
The physical size of the global economy continues to expand as economic growth is encouraged and facilitated
- Are there Solutions to the Scale Problem?
A variety of approaches to solving scale problems exist. Many have been implemented or are being tested in various countries and communities around the world. Because of the complex nature of scale issues, solutions are being explored via innovative economic and business ideas, creative public policy initiatives, sustainable technologies, and inspiring human values. (see Attractive Solutions
note: these would be categories of solutions)
- What are the Obstacles to Implementing Solutions?
Scale problems have slowly emerged as unintended consequences from ways of doing things meant to benefit humanity. Early economic theories were developed to improve the age old process of exchanging goods and services. Technologies were invented to make life easier. Material consumption has made living more comfortable and enjoyable for many. Profit making was encouraged to stimulate development, as well as to acquire riches. Belief systems evolved to help guide actions at particular points in history. Histories of the rise and fall of civilizations point out that the causes of the declines and disappearances of prior societies lay in those society’s refusals to give up old habits and ideas that worked in the past. Big ideas get things done, but they change slowly, sometimes too slowly for societies to adapt to changing realities. Political histories also point out the roles of small elites who have vested interests in the status quo, and the influence they bring to bear in maintaining the old habits.
- How can these Obstacles be Overcome?
Reviewing the existing and proposed solutions for dealing with scale problems reveals a wide array of opportunities for
- An ecologically sustainable world
- which would be considerably more just
- with stronger and more vibrant communities
- with considerably more time for leisure and individual pursuits
- with less distress and social problems
- and with significant opportunities for creative challenges to be undertaken.
See Attractive Solutions
- What is The Scale Project About?
The Scale Project exists because scale problems are inadequately addressed by decision makers at all levels of government, business and civil society. Our Mission is to educate relevant groups, including the public, about the threats posed by scale problems, the information needed to make scale relevant decisions, and the availability and attractiveness of solutions.