This Ticking Time Bomb, Earth
The Earth is in trouble. We all sort of know this, and everybody has their pet theories, from fears of global pandemic to ‘genetic pollution’ to nuclear war to the coming of the Rapture. The exact why of it all, however, I think can be boiled down to one essential problem: There are too many people.
Population growth on Earth has been exponential for quite some time. Arguably it has been thus for all of recorded history and, like all exponential curves, it just keeps getting faster. Pretty much every problem known to the world today would be more-or-less fixable but for the presence of so many human beings. Environmental destruction? Well, the only reason that’s happening is because there are a lot of people who want more stuff to be more comfortable. As that number of people grows every year (every day, even every moment), the amount of stuff humanity wants goes up, and the more the environment suffers. Worried about a global pandemic? Well, the more people there are on the planet, the easier it becomes for a disease to spread, mutate, etc. and the harder it gets to combat it. Worried about world war three? Well, it’s on it’s way, because eventually the Great Powers of the Earth are going to be fighting over ever diminishing resources, and when that happens you get wars. Big wars.
So, what to do? As I see it, there are only two practical solutions, and both involve reducing the population of the Earth. Environmentalism, green energy, human rights sanctions, international diplomacy, etc. are all just stop-gap measures that are only slowing down the approach of the inevitable. The increase of the human populations is a mathematical certainty, unless you can somehow manage to brainwash the human race into not wanting or liking children. Good luck with that.
Solution #1: The Bad Way
The first solution is immoral, terrible, and wrong. It involves lots and lots and lots of people dying. No matter how it happens, be it disease, war, famine, nautral disaster, or man-made atrocity, the death of many billions of people would, ultimately, solve a lot of the Earth’s problems. It would destroy society as we know it in the process, though, and would be the Worst Thing To Happen Ever. I’m pretty sure nobody wants this, not even the really, really crazy people of the Earth.
Well, let’s cut that back to the vast majority of really, really crazy people don’t want this. Some dudes are pretty freaking nutballs.
Solution #2: The Good Way
This should really be intuitive. How do you solve a population problem without killing huge quantities of people? You find somewhere else for them to go, naturally. Of course, given how we can only currently go different places on the Earth, that isn’t really going to help. So, where do we go next?
Can you guess?
Yes, space, obviously. New planets, new colonies, new self-sustaining space stations, etc., etc.. We have got to find a way off this rock in the next century or two, or we’re screwed, folks. Well, maybe not all of us, but probably most of us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my grandchildren to go through that, and no amount of recycling or signing petitions or defending our borders or changing our eating habits or distributng contraception is going to stop it from happening.
When people look at the manned spaceflight programs of both the US, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, of Europe and roll their eyes and say ‘what a waste of time’ or ‘why don’t they spend that money at home’, I say ‘I’m glad they’re spending money on something that will one day save the human race.’ I only wish they spent more, honestly, because, at the pace we’re going, I’m not sure we’re going to make it out before this whole place goes straight to hell.
I keep hoping, though. I hope you do, too.
Posted on September 1, 2011, in Critiques, Theories, and Random Thoughts and tagged earth, population growth, space, space exploration. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
Auston, I think about this all the time! Do you think it is ever alright to have a government regulate how many children a couple can have. (I realize it is a human rights disaser in China, but there must be other models.) There’s going to be a few hundred years between serious overpopulation and high-throughput colonization. What do we do in the meantime? What happens when it is less moral to allow humans to live in diseased misery than to ask them put on a condom?
Well, to answer your first question, the answer is ‘almost certainly not’. China’s policy aside (which, it should be noted, has succeeded in curbing population growth somewhat, but has led to other problems, not the least of which being widespread infanticide of female children; if you’re angry with the Chinese, don’t worry–they’ll be paying the piper soon), population control measures only work without horrible crimes being committed if the population involved is both (1) accepting of population growth as a problem and (2) reasonable human beings able to think long term. We are nowhere near #1 in most places (even in places which have serious problems with it, like Africa and India) and I don’t think any population anywhere has #2 locked up. The idea of making parents obtain licenses is often bandied about, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see what a mess *that* would be.
As for what we do in the meantime…well, I don’t really know. We are *extremely* lucky to live where we do, since we are pretty well insulated from places where population growth will reach a boiling point first (those places being the Third World and, specifically, much of Asia). We (and they) will do their best, I’m sure, to prevent horrible problems in the future, but at some point it’s going to come down to Us Vs Them. Very sad, terrible, and horrific in its consequences for everybody. Nevertheless, I’m going to have to side with Us, as that’s where I live and who I am.