Showing posts with label population. Show all posts
Showing posts with label population. Show all posts

13 November 2012

The end of the world?

How long can we go on treating the Earth as an endless provider? There are limits to our resources and we're in the middle of an explosive increase in their rate of use. Are there too many people on this planet? What will happen if we go on like this?

Too many people using too many resources?
Well, maybe not the end of the world, but perhaps the end of the world as we know it.

Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters around the globe make us ask the question, 'Why?' We want to know why things like this happen. It's a natural enough question. It's tempting to think it's not our fault, that disasters happen randomly.

Storms like Sandy do indeed happen randomly, but their frequency and severity are increasing because of human-induced global warming. But where will it all lead? That depends, and it depends on you and on me.

The size of the problem - To get to grips with this we're going to need a broader and more thorough view of the damage we are currently wreaking on poor old planet Earth. Indeed, we've already gone beyond the planet by making a good start at messing up low Earth orbit, now so littered with everything from flakes of paint to spent rocket stages that it could easily become unusable.

We need to grasp that we have not only messed up but that we are continuing to mess up faster and faster. And the almost inevitable result will be an enormous population crash from disease, lack of food, ecological collapse, war, severe climate change or some other catastrophe, or more likely a perfect storm of several major issues in synergy. And the longer we go on doing little to make things better, the more serious the disruption will be.

It's comforting to think that somehow, sooner or later Papa will reach into our world and repair it. But it's more likely that he foresaw the mess and is waiting for us to fix it; he gave us the responsibility and he's warned us repeatedly. But we weren't listening. And we're still not listening.

I'm 65 next birthday and have begun to think of my life as something that will soon be winding down and ending. This is natural, of course. But I am also starting to think of human society as we know it in much the same way. And, not unreasonably, we can even see the universe itself like that if we choose to.

The way forward - We're in a far bigger pickle than most of us realise. And our biggest problem (because to a large degree it causes all the rest) is overpopulation. That's the dark picture painted in outline.

After the crash there may be an opportunity for something new and better. But that is not something to consider right now. Instead let's begin work right away. What is needed? Why, the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It doesn't sound much of a solution to global warming, does it? But if we truly loved one another we would not be willing to leave such a mess for the next generation. And if we had a little more self-control we might walk and cycle instead of taking the car, demand fewer gadgets, waste less food. If we were really patient, kind, faithful and gentle how might that affect the way we behave?

What we can do - We do have a choice. If we start now we can make some major changes. It's far too late to prevent global warming but it will warm faster and to an even more dangerous level if we delay still further. I would identify population growth and industrial growth as our largest enemies. They are the root cause of pollution, carbon dioxide release, loss of habitat and natural diversity, species extinction and the rest.

The alternative is to carry on as we have done before, stopping our eyes and ears to the signs of looming disaster. Let's leave it for another generation...

Let's be clear. Advances in technology can help us but we will need to be careful about our choices. Where technology can reduce wastage and support more people for less impact that is a good thing. But we need to use this good thing as an opportunity to reduce our impact, not as an excuse to increase our numbers and consumption.

In the longer term there is only one route for further expansion - outwards. There is still room for growth in space - perhaps on the asteroids, Mars, or the Moon. But Earth is more than full already.

We're demanding far too much of our planet. Stop it! Now!

Questions:

  • What do you think will happen if our population and consumption continue to grow?
  • Many small changes make a big difference. Are there ways you could save a little energy, food or other scarce resource?
  • Are there ways you can apply pressure to your local or national government to be less concerned about growth and more focussed on reducing our impact?
  • If we don't act today, how long should we wait?

See also:

12 October 2010

ENVIRONMENT - The cost of damage

This article from the BBC News website spells it out pretty clearly. Environmental damage comes with a heavy price ticket, but the underlying and far bigger issue isn't mentioned. Because our population is way more than the planet can support (and still growing rapidly) it may not be possible to chart a way out of the mess we have created. We have left it far too late.

BBC article on the cost of environmental damageBut it's encouraging that a major news provider is publishing an article like this one. At last, after many decades of warnings from the scientists there is growing evidence that the media, governments, and businesses are beginning to accept that we really do have a problem.

Of course there are useful things we can do. We have already started to do some of them (renewable energy, fishing quotas, emission controls, banning persistent pesticides, and much more). But we are in a phase of the human story where improvements are becoming harder and more costly to achieve while the costs of not making those improvements is also rising rapidly. And I don't mean financial costs alone, but costs in terms of living standards, health, and human safety.

The first step towards any hope of recovery is to recognise that we have a problem. It's becoming clear that at last we're taking that step. Now we're in the phase of broadening and deepening our understanding of the issues we face. That, at least, is good news.

See also: Biology and the economy, Climate change - an update, Nitrogen trifluoride - should we be concerned?

10 May 2010

Biology and the economy

Humanity has become nothing less than a plague on the earth. The Bible calls us to be stewards of this planet, A crowd scene in Hong Kongbut instead we are well on the way to wrecking it.

A BBC News item today reports that loss of habitat and species will soon begin to have a major impact on the world economy. There is so far little evidence that governments have grasped the size of the problems or their urgency, perhaps we are paralysed like a child who has thrown a ball and broken a window. Denial is easier than taking responsibility, owning up, and attempting to make amends. This is in addition to anthropogenic climate change and other issues (pollution, overuse of water resources, dwindling mineral stocks etc).

What we face is little short of catastrophe, but we are doing so little about it. We talk about more efficient agriculture, power generation from wind, sunshine, tides, and waves, recycling of waste, but we don't yet realise that we are merely tinkering. The greatest problem is rarely discussed because it is so difficult - there are simply far too many of us sharing the surface of our small planet.

One good sign is that greater affluence is resulting in falling birthrates in the developed world. In Europe, North America, Australasia, and the developed parts of Asia, birth rates are close to or even below replacement levels. But the less developed areas of Asia and Africa and to a lesser degreee South America still have burgeoning populations.

We must do what we can to reduce the world's population. If we do not - and quickly - the world will do the job for us through steadily increasing starvation and disease. This is likely to be widespread through the developed world as well as less privileged regions.

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