I’m pleased to feature on GIM a guest article by Jim Lydecker. Jim researches and writes about such issues as peak oil, resource depletion, global warming and population. This article, which originally appeared as a guest opinion in the Napa Valley Register, shows succinctly how our leaders avoid the topic of population growth and spells out the consequences this invites. I think it conveys remarkably well the gravity of the crisis we face. My thanks to Jim for permission to reprint it here.
By Jim Lydecker:
America’s a lot like the Titanic making her way through an ocean of danger. Any number of icebergs threaten to do damage and several are large enough to sink us. The captain warns us of the smaller ones, yet assures us our voyage is safe.
Most passengers believe the captain. Others figure there is nothing they can do, so why worry?
Some, however, notice concerned looks on the crew’s faces. Rumors are heard about one berg so big that there is no getting by regardless of the course plotted. It is connected to others making the situation more problematic. We’re on a direct collision course unless the damn thing melts and gets much smaller.
The giant iceberg’s given a name: Overpopulation. Some of the ones connected to it are known as resource depletion, climate change, disease, hunger and economic collapse. With no warning from the captain, the icebergs are closer than ever. The passengers party on.
Like this allegory, politicians and leaders focus our attention on issues easier addressed than those that really matter. Terrorism is an example.
Since 9/11, billions have been invested on what is a relatively small threat. Consider this: 3,000 died in New York on that fateful day in September 2001; 25,000 die every day in the world from contaminated water alone. Each year, 35 million children are mentally impaired by malnourishment. Each year, an area of prime farmland greater than Scotland is lost to erosion and urban sprawl. These are problems connected with overpopulation, problems that will get worse before they, if ever, get better.
Every statistic and number crunched, every fact absorbed, each study released makes it apparent that our industrialized civilization can’t survive unless we seriously reduce our numbers. We have overshot Earth’s carrying capacity by mortgaging the future.
To feed the current 6 billion people on a diet enjoyed by Americans would consume all the world’s oil production. For the same 6 billion to live at our current standard of living would require world steel production to increase 200 times. This is not possible.
Two current best-sellers look into the past to explain our present and predict the future.
In his Pulitzer-winning “Guns, Germs and Steel,” UCLA professor Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed technologies and immunities to dominate much of the world. His new book, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” probes the other side of the equation: What caused the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin and what can we learn from their fate?
In “A Short History of Progress,” Canadian historian Ronald Wright examines how man throughout history has walked into “progress traps,” beginning with the slaughter of big game in the Stone Age and then continued the pattern of over-consumption until most of the world’s most creative civilizations fell victim to their own success.
Both books arrive at the same conclusion: Mankind has to seriously reduce its population and the speed of which we are running though Earth’s finite resources. To not do so will abruptly bring down the curtain on modern civilization.
But, unlike terrorism, these are subjects politicians and leaders have a better chance of staying employed by ignoring.
The only recent politician to make energy a part of his agenda was cardigan-wearing, in-front-of-the-fireplace Jimmy Carter. Who wanted to hear the horrible truth when Ronnie was telling good-time “morning in America” fairy tales? Reagan ended up president while Jimmy faded into obscurity.
Overpopulation is an issue no one, liberal or conservative, wants to touch. The right-wing Christian conservatives say it’s ungodly to screw with procreation while left-wing liberals claim it steps on our civil liberties.
So what happens? We continue to breed ourselves toward extinction.
Our leaders, and those who design and implement their policies, have chosen to ignore the real problems facing us for political and financial gain.
However, it is the responsibility of our leaders to take us down paths, regardless how uncomfortable or painful, when circumstances demand it. We face problems now, and have for several decades, that demand such actions.
Eventually our leaders will be held accountable for their actions, or lack of, and heads will roll.
Wright and Diamond point out that throughout history, once nature starts to foreclose — with famine, disease, crop failures and more — the social contract breaks down. People may suffer stoically for a while but eventually our rulers real relationship with the heavens is exposed as a fraud.
Each time history repeats itself, the cost goes up. At this point in runaway growth in population and consumption, we need to replace our irresponsible captain and crew before civilization is hopelessly bankrupt. Because even though most of the passengers party on, more and more of us know the icebergs are closer than ever.
Image source: bogavanterojo, posted on flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license