Monday, June 13, 2011

7 Billion: A Demographic Milestone

As we approach a new milestone−−7 billion of us trampling about the Earth−−it's time we ponder on where we, homo sapiens, are headed to. Are we advancing toward a brighter and ever more powerful future, as little gods in the making, poised to discover, colonize, and eventually exploit new extraterrestrial worlds? Or are we headed toward extinction like most pre−Man inhabitants of our planet Earth, only this time with an implosion metaphorically comparable to the Big Bang?
Most people enthusiastically believe that our technology-driven world all but assures us of an infinite future. Only few will argue that Man is destroying the Earth; and often those who say it are vilipended, accused of being naysayers and fear mongers. So, where lies the truth?

When 30 years ago Americans celebrated the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, universities across the country put a halt to their anti−war protests and instead rallied against pollution and population growth. The day would acquire historical significance, for it marked the beginning of a new era of reckoning. It also served to line up the two opposing forces that would govern the attitudes of people toward our environmental problems−−the unrelenting materialists who cling to the notion that nothing must be done that may hurt the economy, and those who see beyond the Now and warn us that unless we shift into reverse, not only our civilization but our Earth itself will be heading toward catastrophe.

Global Footprint Network (GFN), an alliance of scientists who examines the Earth's sustainability, calculates that at our current growth rate, and using our current technology, we will soon need the land and water equivalent to more than 1.5 Earths to produce the resources we consume and absorb the waste we produce. GFN further warns us that we are growing at a rate that is using up the Earth's resources much faster than they can be sustainably replenished. At this very moment, our growth is using the equivalent of about 1.5 Earths. One doesn't have to be a mathematical genius to recognize that Mankind is facing a real problem.

So, as we approach the demographic 7 billion mark, it'll be wise that we all−−government, industry, business, and we the people−−pause and reflect on what we'll be leaving to our children and grandchildren. Mankind will not become extinct in their lifetime; although in some unfathomable distant future, surely we will follow the fate of our Paleozoic Era predecessors.

The future stares us into our eyes. We, the soon to be 7 billion, need to backpedal a little. We need to realize that an ever−expanding population produces an ever−expanding economy whose demands the Earth will not be able to sustain.

1 comment:

  1. It is true that this "backpedal" movement is needed and even underway in some facets. Not surprisingly, even the way back to a simpler more earth friendly approach does not come without its costs - in fact we're being heavily charged for it via ours truly, capitalism.

    I can cite an examples at the moment of which I am experiencing. Take a look at the latest craze for organic foods : organically grown vegetables and fruits, organically farmed animals, organic anything and everything. Why? Folks have come to realize that the designer seeds, overcrowded farms, pesticides, and big business patent rights (Monsato) have taken a natural process and made it not only un-natural but unhealthy. So, people turn to organics to live healthier lives and respect earth's natural system. The only problem is that to buy organic means to shell out a lot more money - why?

    If I draw a parallel to the way most of our grocery store food is processed from seed to store it can be equaled to a process called McDonaldization where each process is rationalized down to it's most predictable and efficient state discarding the logical rules used to get to that state. This leads to cheaper production and mass quantity but poor quality i.e. the state of our farming system. Now organic steps in and is not able to compete with the quantity output as a McDonaldized system but the quality is superior. Organics boast natural, high quality food. It is in demand but with fewer supply - ahhh yes, and prices are hiked up because the laws of supply and demand bow down to the all important dollar. Why can it not instead be seen as quality food = healthier people = less burden on the system (governmental and Earth)....this may be a bit of a an over-generalization but a simple conclusion of logic.

    So even though it is we the 7 billion and counting people who are taking steps to backpedal in an effort to lessen our burden on our one and only planet, we are only trying to undo what has already been done by doing more harm. It is like a modern farmer's seed - at one time it was a simple seed, then it was sprayed with pesticides which caused deficits in the seeds capabilities, so it was then genetically modified to increase its capabilities but its new capabilities attracted hungry pests, so it was sprayed with a new pesticide.....etc.etc.etc.