Sustainability: Why It’s More Important Than the Hipsters Who Major In It

In future, population, sustainability on 01/13/2012 at 15:48

-Since the dawn of mankind, our net-gain of human bodies has annually increased. So how long does that last?

Recently I finished Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Good book.

A particular passage had me pause and think for a minute: first I thought it was an exaggeration on Franzen’s part, or a mistake of the character, Walter, who claimed that by 2063 (50ish years from now) the global population would be 12 billion. Wait a second, I thought to myself. That can’t be. Because that would be disastrous. Right?

It took 300,000 years for apes to hop out of the trees, learn to use twigs to pick their noses, slowly develop wi-fi internet, for us to finally hit 6 billion people. Now, in a little more time than Saturday Night Live has been on the air, we are going to add another 6 billion (it took 150,000 years for humans to reach 1 billion, then only twelve years to hit 2 billion). That’s sci-fi shit, right? And I don’t mean to get green on you, but can you imagine doubling the current population as anything but a nightmare for the planet?

Some fun numbers:
Global Population Clock
  this clock puts the number at 8.7 billion
United Nations the UN puts it at 9.1 in 2050
Fertility Rates Aren’t Dropping As Previously Expected UN projections have us between 7 billion and 11 billion in 2060. Extreme scenarios see the population in 2150 at 24+ billion…then we move to Mars?
Farmer’s Market World Bank estimates we need to increase food production by at least 50% for the 2030 population. That results in a lot more jobs in either A) the agricultural industry or B) mortuaries.
More Projections if you’re still paying attention, this will just bum you out.

Plainly stated, if Family Planning does not become of vital importance in this generation, our children’s generation, and all subsequent generations, we’re fucked.

The alternative? China’s two- and one-child policies aren’t exactly the most well-received initiatives of all time, and with abortion being the stalwart hot-button topic that it is, you can only imagine how poorly the opposite would go: hey, after you get married, put up the picket fence, exchange your sports car for a minivan, try not to fill it up with a dozen soccer-hungry toddlers. This is America we are talking about, home of the Octo-mom, John and Kate+8, and Quints (Kimberly J. Brown reference, yes!).

Colin Mason takes an American approach to the subject in an article tactfully titled TARGETING FREEDOM AND THE PRIVACY OF THE BEDROOM, and while Mason fails to recognize that people, while being the “greatest natural resource available” of any country, are not a resource that can be granted unchecked growth, he does raise the key issue against law-enforced Family Planning: In China, children over the quota are refused all rights, state benefits and basic citizenship, and are sometimes abandoned in the woods by parents who can’t afford to raise an additional child or the criminal offenses associated with it. Such an initiative, or any government-controlling-your-reproductive-system initiative, seems inconceivable in America.

So that puts us in quite the dilemma, eh? A pickle even Benny the Jet couldn’t solve: either we regress to some 1984 nightmare where baby #2 is cast into the dark forest where all the other baby #2s group together and create a rebel uprising, or we continue to let people get freaky whenever they want and watch as our planet, quite rapidly, devolves toward a Malthusian catastrophe (Google it nerds).

You’ve heard “we’ve only got one earth” too many times to count. Give a hoot, don’t pollute. Right. But what if you couldn’t pollute? What if there was literally no woods, parks, or fields to litter in because every inch of the planet needs to be maximized for housing and manufacturing? We are  not so far from that scenario as we might believe, and that’s fucking scary.

On the most depressing note I can end on: doubling the world population, and continuing to grow from there, would change our culture in ways we can’t imagine; for example, all funerals would involve cremation since buying a plot of land for anything outside agricultural or housing purposes would be illegal and/or mad expensive. All sorts of cemetery-esque stretches of land would be targeted for living space. I’m looking at you Gettysburg.


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