As we think about Mother Earth and celebrate “Earth Day” 2014, no discussion would be complete without including population levels. This is the only living planet in our galaxy and we are dependent upon it for our survival. Yes, life continues to get better in most of the world, even the poorer and underdeveloped countries, however, the shear number of people are the biggest threat to it’s survival.
As James Lovelock stated in his 2009 book “The Vanishing Face of Gaia”, “No voluntary human act can reduce our numbers fast enough even to slow climate change. Merely by existing, people and their dependent animals are responsible for more than ten times the greenhouse gas emissions of all the airline travel in the world.” And as quality of life improves on a global basis, the crisis gets worse.
The Earth has experienced many droughts over the millions of years of its existence. But there were far fewer humans, animals, and agriculture. Natural vegetation was free to regulate the climate. There was little asphalt or restricted water sources and humans moved around based on available water, weather, and food. Now we create everything we need and want, and little thought is given to consequences for those actions. We continue to have lawns when we don’t need them. We continue to allow companies to develope complex packaging for goods that protect them from theft yet fill the landfills with materials that take centuries to break down, if they ever do.
Continuing his discussion of population, Lovelock states “Human nature, the behavior that comes from the intelligence that evolution has given us, impairs our chances [of survival]. Our contemporary industrial civilization is hopelessly unfitted to survive on an overpopulated and underresourced planet, deluded by the thought that clever inventions and progress will provide the shoehorn that fits us into our imaginary niche. Global heating would not have happened but for the rapid expansion in numbers and wealth of humanity.”
So what are we doing to reduce our impact on Mother Earth? Little to nothing. The number of families with 3-5 children outweigh those that have none. China’s “one child policy” has been altered because they won’t have the man-power to care for all their elderly if they don’t increase their numbers. And rape and incest are culturally “okay” in far too many eastern countries (and yes, the US as well) to curb the flow of poverty and male dominance leaving women little choice but to give birth to large numbers of children, with the number of survivals increasing with aide and medicine.
I’ve had two children, they each have one child. What my grandchildren will do is still unknown as they are busy getting an education and deciding what they want to be when they grow up. I hope they know they can break the cycle of the expectation of getting married and having children. If they choose the path of parenthood, I hope one of the partners is the stay-at-home caregiver and the other the breadwinner. Whichever role they choose is not terrible important. What is, is two parents who help each other raise their child, and provide guidance and love that allows them to grow into a person that feels loved, has value, and is not a “burden” on Mother Earth, but a blessing.
I have to agree with Lovelocks observation – “our gravest dangers are not from climate change itself, but indirectly from starvation, competition for space and resources, and war.” We’ve started down that path this year, more than ever. Drought in California , war in the east and Russia, and declining water resources have just begun to impact our quality of life. I’m grateful to have “enough”, I wish the same for all of you. And if you have more than “enough”, I hope you’ll pare yourself back to a standard of living that is sustainable and use the balance to educate women that they have a choice to have children or not.
Until next time.