Thursday, March 12, 2009
This is my first post in my "the end of life as we know it..." thread. I've been holding off for a while on this, because as a blog theme/thread, it is a vast one - wide and deep. Pretty much all encompassing.
You may recall that I started writing about the shit-hitting-the-economic-fan very soon after I started this blog, during the fall of 2007. My feelings and beliefs on the multitude of issues that are currently raining down upon us began being formulated in 1974. After reading one of my sister's college textbooks - Paul Erlich's Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology (1970) - I began to ponder human overpopulation and its implications. Erlich was one of the founders of the Zero Population Growth movement.
After that textbook, I read everything I could get my hands on. I joined the Ozark Society. I joined the Audubon Society. I was a card carrying member of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society. I traveled deep into the Atchafalaya Basin, guiding large groups of canoeists into the stillness of the blackwater swamps of Buffalo Cove. I bushwacked the thick, dark forests and steep, slimy loess slopes of the Tunica Hills near Pond, Mississippi. I trekked into the mountain wilderness and jammed my bloody fists into cold granite cracks to scale the peaks there. I was born an environmentalist (another post), but it was these years that solidified these foundations in my soul.
I can't really call it "my" theory, or a theory at all. It's an amalgam of everything I read and pondered and figured out for myself. Only my two wives knew this deepest, darkest secret of my soul. I couldn't share my feelings with anyone else over these past 34 years. I called it my "majorsocioeconomicenviropoliticalcatasrophe" theory. Add religious and racial issues into the mix now and it pretty much covers everything. It is based on the fact, the FACT, that human overpopulation will begin to precipitate a series (concurrent) of events that will fundamentally change the way life is lived on this planet.
Water shortages, oil shortages, energy shortages, global warming, radical climate change, acid rain (at the time), air pollution, food shortages, topsoil depletion, loss of arable land, famine, loss of wildlife habitat, overfishing of oceans, ocean acidification, death of coral reefs and ocean ecosystem imbalances, loss of species, wild disparities of economic status, social dissatisfaction leading to civil unrest, ethnic cleansing leading to genocide, political squabbles, religious tension, foreign relations issues, war, the failure of health care and educational systems - serious failure and instability across the board and across the globe. My "theory" isn't pretty picture. Uncomfortable at the very least - devastating contraction of human population levels at the very worst. Devasting to those devasted, and a really good thing, for those not.
I thought, predicted, in the privacy of my own mind, that after world oil production peaked somewhere around 2005 to 2010, (my dad the geologist told me this factoid in 1974), that things would begin to decline, hopefully on the way to fundamental change, somewhere around 2020. I guessed that we might not really see the worst until 2030 or 2040, at the end of my life, at the age of 70 or 80, and that it might take 50 years for things to really stabilize and come out the the other side. A "not in my lifetime" scenario.
I quit the Sierra Club in the early 80's, resigning myself with the feeling that there was nothing anyone could do to stave off the inevitable. The inevitability of one of the fundamental laws of nature. One of the fundamental truths of the universe. The truth that population levels fluctuate. They rise and they fall. Without fail. I went on about my life in the ensuing years, keeping my black secret hidden in my heart. After my daughter was born, I worried about her - I hoped she would not ever see this in her lifetime.
But now, I fear everything is happening sooner than I anticipated - 10-20 years sooner. The crux is this. Sustainability. The Western world is primarily responsible for choosing a path that is not sustainable. I'm not talking 5 years, or 10 years, or even 50 years. We need to be looking at things in a 500 year window. A 500 year sustainability window. We are now seeing the effects of our unsustainable choices for the past 300 years or so. Or is it unsustainable evolution? My concern is that no one is talking about sustainability. No one is talking about overpopulation. No one is talking about the elephant in the room.
For my profile on Facebook, under "politics", I put that I am a "radically conservative, fundamentalist ultra-left wing elitist liberal", or something along those lines. I think that's pretty close. I'm not a doomsday or survivalist type., however. It's important to note that this post is not about despair, but hope. Hope for the human species. Hope that we can join together and rise above materialism and self-interest. Hope that love, community and pursuit of the common good will prevail.
For now, suffice it to say there will be no more thirsty lawns or grass. The entire metropolis of Atlanta almost ran out of water last summer. They were down to a thirty day supply of water in their only reservoir. The Hill Country of Texas is on a critical drought/water shortage alert - they are asking everyone to voluntarily curtail water use by 30%. Los Angeles is in big trouble. The roughly 125 golf courses in the Palm Desert are in trouble. There were over 100 the last time I checked.
So, no more grass. No more white picket fence. Save water, save trees, eliminate the toxic paint waste, open your dusty yard to the neighbor kids to play football.
Stay tuned for "Where did we go wrong?"