“Humanity is not sustainable” sounds like an alarmist, perhaps environmental fanatical, statement. In some ways that is totally true, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. True, such emotional outbursts tend to discredit the spokesperson, and the subject matter, but, if we look beyond that emotion, there is a fundamental, practical, truth that is creeping up on us daily. If you look at most of the world’s problems that exist today; food shortage, war, political manipulations, the size of pandemics, greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, pollution in general, and many others, the fundamental cause is a booming population density: Too many people.
It seems to be politically incorrect to discuss this issue, which is not surprising when the possible solutions include draconian measures to control population and population growth. Pandemics would seem to help, but man-made pandemics would almost certainly be vilified; for example, the possibility that China created COVID19, immediately caused worldwide outrage. If anyone suggested that the creation and distribution of a worldwide pandemic as a method of population control, they would probably be assassinated.
In case you haven’t heard, we’re currently in the midst of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, and it’s only accelerating. On a recent episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes, Paul Ehrlich, the Stanford-based author of The Population Bomb said, “Humanity is not sustainable. To maintain our lifestyle, yours and mine, for the entire planet, we will need five more Earths.”
Ehrlich, who earned a reputation as an alarmist following the 1968 release of his book, The Population Bomb, says our current crisis boils down to this: the population growth in humans is stripping the resources that support our lives, including the biodiversity that helps sustain it. “Humanity is very busily sawing off a limb that we are sitting on,” he said.
Another Stanford scientist, fossil researcher Tony Barnosky, also joined the CBS 60 Minutes program,to say that today’s rate of extinction of species is up to 100 times faster than historically typical. In fact, in the history of the world, the only other times the mass extinction levels have reached today’s levels have been following massive global natural disasters. Currently, Barnosky said, at least three-quarters of known species are disappearing from Earth.
He further explained that this mass extinction process starts with species loss, includes habitat loss, and leads to the breakdown in the natural order of things such as the food chains and soil fertility. Putting it bluntly, the current process, if unchecked, will result in the Earth killing off the human way of life. The Earth will survive, it will just survive without us. Barnosky continued: “We’re now witnessing what a lot of people are calling the sixth mass extinction, where the same thing that happened in the past could happen again on our watch, and because of us. We are eliminating ourselves.”
With a worldwide population of roughly 8.5 billion people, we now consume 175 percent of what the Earth can regenerate. And things aren’t improving. “The rate of extinction is extraordinarily high now,” Ehrlich said, “and getting higher all the time.” That leaves us only one alternative if we want to avoid the future disappearance of the human race. We have to reduce the human population on Earth, and reasonably quickly. That requires comprehensive practical solutions as well as ethical ones, although I should add that we have a limited amount of time to include ethical considerations before practical ones force the issue.
We can export people to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Unfortunately, the population bomb on Earth will probably explode quicker than we can develop the technology for any significant migration in that direction. That leaves population control on Earth, which will be essential anyway if we are not to create a seventh wave of extinction in the future even after extra-terrestrial migration.
We also can’t approach this problem on a piecemeal basis. China tried that with its “One child per family” policy. Their aging population cannot now be sustained with a diminishing younger generation’s economic activity. This crisis has been exacerbated by the unplanned reaction of the populous, who manipulated the statistics by female-baby genocide: they now have far more boys than girls.
I don’t profess to know what the best solution is. There may well not be a “best” solution. There may well only be a draconian one. However, if we don’t discuss this, as the human race, the solution will be forced on us by an unsustainable population growth.