Profile of a group: Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice (www.d3sj.org)
Why and how was d3sj established?
My personal motivation was to find a way to oppose the blatant lies spread by the commercial media and by right wing politicians which led to the invasion of Iraq, which was a crime against humanity. This was a clear case of public policy being hijacked by military-industrial- corporate interests in the service of a greedy few, resulting in the deaths by now of at least a million people and the displacement of at least five million. Ongoing distortion of facts and truth continue to be perpetrated in the form of global warming denial by those very same people, who are highly skilled at using fear, bigotry and greed to capture the minds of the general public. There is a better way. We must demand that public policy is determined by evidence, reason and fairness to ensure the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people on a long term basis. Professor Tom Cochrane (of QUT), Dr GraceSaw (then of UQ, now of Bond University) and I got together in late 2005 to establish regular meetings to promote these principles. Our initial venue was a meeting room above the Physical Sciences and Engineering library in the UQ campus which, despite excellent facilities, was an unsuitable location for many participants. In early 2006, after being contacted by Dr. Peter Tod of Doctors for a Sustainable Population (which I then joined), we were offered a home for our meetings at Taringa by Dr. Michael Harrison, CEO of S&N pathology laboratories and another committee member of DSP. Dr. Ralph Cobcroft, physician, also of DSP, has probably been our most important contributor and he set up our website www.d3sj.org.
How are you structured?
There is no hierarchy - no president, secretary, treasurer or any formal appointments. There is no formal membership and nosubsciption fees. No money changes hands. I am probably the main dogsbody but have been greatly helped by many others including Dr. Sandra Bayley, Mr. Chris Palmer, Ms Sheryl Backhouse and Dr Jane O'Sullivan to name just a few.
Who can participate?
Our meetings are free to all members of the general public who agree with these principles: that policy should be determined by evidence, reason and fairness to ensure the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people on a long term basis.
What have been your activities to date?
We have been very fortunate to receive contributions from experts in numerous fields regarding many aspects of sustainability. Previous topics discussed can be reviewed at the "past meetings" section of our website www.d3sj.org
What do you see as the major problems facing humanity at present?
The major problems have been clearly identified by top scientists and are linked in a complex web. Each problem interacts with and often amplifies the others. Most are ultimately related to our utilisation of and addiction to fossil fuels. Global warming is the greatest threat to civilisation and by far the most dangerous problem, but may not impose serious impacts on the majority of human populations for some decades, which is why the denialists have such traction at present. Nevertheless we must act now, because by the time those major impacts are felt it will be too late, we will have passed the "tipping point" of irreversible catastrophic climate change. Resource depletion is a more immediate problem, particularly Peak Oil (petroleum being a critical non-renewable commodity, without which the existing industrial and economic framework will collapse). Resource depletion leads to wars, the most obvious so far being the invasion of Iraq for their oil. Ecosystem collapse is the third problem, which is causing species extinction and destruction of the environmental capital on which we depend (and on which we build our economies). The underlying driver of all those problems is our total human footprint – which can be expressed as the product of "human population multiplied by individual human consumption+waste generation".
These are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The primary measures to address those problems must therefore be the stabilisation followed by the humane reduction of population numbers (perhaps down to two billion worldwide in the long run) by voluntary limitation of reproduction. This must be combined with reduction of individual human consumption and waste generation (especially carbon emissions). We can transform from an "endless growth" economy (which is a delusional pyramid scheme) to a sustainable steady-state economy, creating many jobs along the way, without significantly sacrificing our quality of life, provided we act now and provided there is adequate investment in energy conservation and renewable energy technologies. Unfortunately we face massive obstruction from the denialists and vested interest industrialists who only focus on short term greed.
How do you see the future role of d3sj?
Because our goal is to work in the service of the common good, we wish to continue cooperation with like minded groups such as all the Brisbane community sustainability groups, Friends of the Earth and others. We are not aligned to any political parties and our approach is best described as pragmatic. Nevertheless we do share many views with those who value the preservation of our environment and our ecosystems over short term profits and greed. We are not a grassroots group and hope to be more of an intellectual resource group to be used by the grassroots groups. We hope to provide the strong philosophical, scientific, evidential and systems analytical frameworks for the transformation of society away from fossil fuel dependence towards a sustainable future. If we do not plan for this transition in an orderly and systematic manner, Nature will impose its limits upon us in a chaotic and horrific manner, resulting in unimaginable death and suffering along the way. James Lovelock of "Gaia" fame has predicted the death of many billions of people this century unless urgent action is taken. In that sense, sustainability issues must be regarded as public health issues and therefore, in my opinion, warrant the involvement of all doctors.
Geoffrey Chia, Cardiologist, Brisbane June 2010