Friday, August 22, 2014
THE EARTH IS FINITE
The following is taken from a Stanard family email exchange, one initiated when my husband Doug cited news regarding global warming.* Our three sons invariably have strong and differing opinions, many of them at odds with their father. We can’t solve the world’s problems, but that doesn’t stop us from having opinions.
Global warming is one of those issues that can heat up a conversation. Everybody has an opinion about the causes as well as whether it exists. Maybe some of the confusion arises because scientists don't know the consequences of our increasing demands on the earth's resources.
It has an impact on the environment—the question is to what extent? And where is the tipping point? Some people think we'll never reach the tipping point. But they may be wrong. Not much to gain from being right—a lot to lose if they’re wrong.
Some of us point to the huge environmental strides we've made—based largely on increased regulations and awareness—and then at the same time, use this as an argument to do whatever we want. Isn't this contradictory?
The underlying issue isn't global warming. That is only one indicator of a larger issue—consumption. What drives increased consumption? Population growth. We must—at some point—control our population growth. In 1940 the global population was a bit over two billion. It just passed seven billion.**
Population curves is something we learned about in high school biology classes. A species' population grows slowly at first, then exponentially faster, until it hits a moment when it is balanced with it's habitat—there's enough food to support the number of animals. But instead of halting at that point, the population—fueled by a healthy, fully fed peak population—has it's biggest growth year, shooting past the level the habitat can sustain.
What happens then? All those hungry babies and parents—starving—strip the habitat clean of it's resources in a desperate attempt to survive, desiccating the habitat. There's a huge die-off of the population and the species reverts back to the beginning of the cycle (or goes extinct).
SUSTAINED GROWTH SO FAR
We have thus far been able to avoid this fate due to our amazing ability to grow our habitat—both through literal expansion, but even more so due to technological advancements. But in the end, there's no denying it—the earth is finite. That means we must, despite all our technological advancements, eventually stop our population growth if we are to avoid the fate shared by so many unthinking species.
That's our choice—do we continue on without thinking or do we modify our behavior? If we continue to grow endlessly then eventually we will have a "correction." This may not mean we'll go extinct, but let's just say it will be … unpleasant. Or we could think ahead and avoid this painful outcome.
The rate of global population growth has started to slow (it's still growing, but slower), and awareness is rising, so there’s reason to be hopeful.