A modern parable: the prince’s birthday party

The Prince’s son had his 10th birthday, and a huge celebration was held up in the castle. The birthday cake was as big as a wagon wheel, and the hundreds of nobles lucky enough to be invited were served a sumptuous 10-course meal.

Wonderful.

The other half of the story is less so. This event took place in a walled town under siege. Many thousands of the enemy camped around the walls, ravaging the countryside. They were terrible, implacable barbarians, determined to kill and rape and pillage, and take any survivors into slavery.

So far, they had been kept out. Now, they were simply waiting to starve the defenders into submission.

The ordinary soldiers, the townspeople, the refugees did not share in the birthday feast. This made them resentful, and rightly so. Therefore, they organised celebrations of their own, doing whatever they could to get at food supplies and enjoying ever-increasing consumption of the town’s scarce resources. After all, if it’s good enough for the nobles, surely it’s good enough for us?

Sounds idiotic?

Then why are we doing the same thing?

Today, I saw 6 hot-air balloons up in the sky. These balloons are a wonderful tourist attraction, providing a thrill and a beautiful memory. Only thing is, they are powered by fossil fuel. In my house at Moora Moora, we used liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to cook and run a gas fridge. One balloon trip uses as much LPG as our house over 3 months.

Multiply this example by a million, such as car races, pleasure cruising, holidays in distant places, replacing stuff that is still functional but perhaps no longer fashionable, leaving lights shining in an empty room, on and on in a splurge of the young Prince’s birthday party.

Add to our overconsumption what is happening in places like China and India, where those who have been disadvantaged insist on joining the party.

What do you get?


I am researching an essay for Apt magazine, who want to devote an issue to the climate catastrophe. Looking back through past issues of Bobbing Around, I found this little essay I’d written in March, 2013. Six years later, it’s even more relevant.

Let us grow the economy to extinction!

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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