“‘Smart growth’ destroys the environment. ‘Dumb growth’ destroys the environment. The only difference is that ‘smart growth’ does it with good taste. It’s like booking passage on the Titanic. Whether you go first-class or steerage, the result is the same.”
— – Dr. Albert Bartlett, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Colorado; World Population Balance Board of Advisors
(Illustration found here).
Strapped tightly onto the world’s two biggest near-unsurmountable problems — climate and energy (Two obstacles which make all the other dilemmas facing earth seem as near-nothing) — are people.
And people need to eat and drink — a problem a-coming for some, and here already for others.
In order to keep the right mixture flowing to everybody, the concept of ‘too many mouths to feed’ becomes reality as parts of the globe has begun to experience a shortage of food and water, a horror only to get far, far worse.
Since 1980, through a fairly high birthrate and the addition of about 80 million immigrants, the U.S. population has grown about 36 percent, four times as fast as the Europeans and Japanese, even 50 percent faster than China.
In poor places, where only the ragged people go, people are hurting.
From a population series at National Geographic:
Historians now estimate that in Leeuwenhoekâ€™s day (1677) there were only half a billion or so humans on Earth.
After rising very slowly for millennia, the number was just starting to take off.
A century and a half later, when another scientist reported the discovery of human egg cells, the worldâ€™s population had doubled to more than a billion.
A century after that, around 1930, it had doubled again to two billion.
The acceleration since then has been astounding.
Before the 20th century, no human had lived through a doubling of the human population, but there are people alive today who have seen it triple.
Sometime in late 2011, according to the UN Population Division, there will be seven billion of us.
And the explosion, though it is slowing, is far from over.
Not only are people living longer, but so many women across the world are now in their childbearing years — 1.8 billion — that the global population will keep growing for another few decades at least, even though each woman is having fewer children than she would have had a generation ago.
By 2050 the total number could reach 10.5 billion, or it could stop at eight billion — the difference is about one child per woman.
UN demographers consider the middle road their best estimate: They now project that the population may reach nine billion before 2050 — in 2045.
The eventual tally will depend on the choices individual couples make when they engage in that most intimate of human acts, the one Leeuwenhoek interrupted so carelessly for the sake of science.
With the population still growing by about 80 million each year, itâ€™s hard not to be alarmed.
Right now on Earth, water tables are falling, soil is eroding, glaciers are melting, and fish stocks are vanishing.
Close to a billion people go hungry each day.
Decades from now, there will likely be two billion more mouths to feed, mostly in poor countries.
There will be billions more people wanting and deserving to boost themselves out of poverty.
If they follow the path blazed by wealthy countries — clearing forests, burning coal and oil, freely scattering fertilizers and pesticides — they too will be stepping hard on the planetâ€™s natural resources.
How exactly is this going to work?
Yes, the way-biggest jeopardy question.
Especially with food — too many people and high food prices has been the springboard for the unrest currently blowing like a political hurricane through the Middle East.
And even in the Americas — Bolivian President Evo Morales had to cut and run from a public event last week after riots over a shortage of food and high prices threatened him: Mr Morales was due to address a parade to commemorate a colonial-era uprising in the mining city of Oruro. But he and his team left the city to avoid a violent demonstration by miners throwing dynamite.
Yeah, that would get your attention.
And energy to push the wheels of civilization — just about gone, if not gone already.
General widespread-panic would be the norm if alarm bells now ringing on the state of worldwide oil depletion aren’t answered.
I have six children — way over my limit.