….the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining! A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but of whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own lives as we are about ours.” –John Muir
Before the Industrial Revolution, humanity existed by tilling the fields for crops, picking fruits and storing them in root cellars. Transportation included animals, ox carts, rivers and oceans. All limited and slow!
Diseases wiped out millions of people at the drop of a hat. Polio, cholera and Bubonic Plague ruled.
In 1900, the average American died by 49 years of age. Citizens kept warm by firewood and coal. As long as humans depended on solar flow, winds and currents, we remained sustainable within nature’s carrying capacity.
However, in the late 1800s, steam power burst upon the scene. With it, steam driven ocean liners and trains afforded swift transport across oceans and continents. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, the tractor and car made their appearance.
Whereas one farmer might feed 20 people with his labors, a tractor allowed one farmer the ability to feed 10,000 humans. Food canning guaranteed sustenance throughout the year.
With the advent of electricity, everything changed in America. Coupled with production and the assembly line, consumption became the driving force of capitalism.
Those technologies allowed Americans to overwhelm the natural world. In 1900, we numbered 76 million in America. At the time, our scientists had created 100 different chemicals. Today, we surpass 72,000 chemicals with an added 1,000 created annually. All of them outside the bounds of nature! All of them deadly to life forms including us.
Today the United States, at 300 million people and headed for 400 million, sucks the lifeblood out of nature at increasing and alarming rates of speed. If we examined the carnage and consumption of our voracious civilization, we might be appalled at the figures we exact on Mother Nature and our fellow creatures.
Each day, Americans slaughter 22 million chickens for consumption. We kill in excess of 105,000 cattle every 24 hours. We devour tens of millions of fish and other ocean life every day. We kill millions of pigs, horses, turkeys, deer, buffalo, ducks, geese, rabbits and other animals. We euthanize millions of cats, dogs and other domestic animals annually.
We burn 7.3 billion barrels of oil annually in the USA. We burn millions of metric tons of natural gas. We burned 1.17 billion tons of coal to produce electricity in 2006.
However, as fast we produce it, we devour it faster. The Sears Tower in Chicago uses more electricity in a single day than the entire city of Rockford, Illinois with 152,000 people. Humans consume 40 percent of the net primary production of energy on earth—the amount of solar energy converted to plant organic matter through photosynthesis—while we make up less than one percent of the animal biomass on this planet.
“It’s no accident that as we celebrate the urbanization of the world,” said Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation of Economic Trends, “we quickly approach another historic watershed: the disappearance of the wild. Rising population; growing consumption of food, water and building materials; expanding road and rail transport; and urban sprawl continue encroaching on the remaining wild, pushing it to extinction.”
Within the lifetime of our children, vast areas of the wild we take for granted will vanish from our planet. The Trans-Amazon Highway cuts across the entire expanse of the Amazon rain forest, hastening its destruction. What is the result? Biologist E.O. Wilson states that humans create the ‘Sixth Extinction Session’ whereby we lose, “50 to 150 species a day or between 18,000 and 55,000 species a year. By 2100, two-thirds of Earth’s remaining species are likely to become extinct.”
Big deal you shrug! As we kill more and more basic plant and animal life, it creates a cascading effect whereby all creatures depend on all other creatures in the web of life. As you kill off more and more species, a cascade of extinction destroys environmental equilibrium. Given enough time, we shall kill off the grizzly, hummingbird, bald eagle, moose, giraffe, lion, elephant, cheetah, trout, bass, dragonfly and millions more of earth’s creatures.
According to Environmental Magazine, one American uses from 10 to 30 times more resources than Third World person. Thus, our 300 million equates to at least 3.0 billion people using resources. Thus, the next 100 million Americans means 1.0 billion using resources. With that 100 million added Americans in three decades, you’re slowly connecting the dots provided by this series. Your mind sobers to the accelerating realities we face. Can you imagine adding 1,000 cities in the world with 1,000,000 residents each in the next 35 years? Name one good reason for that.
Makes your head hurt doesn’t it?
Since I’ve already seen this nightmare in India and China, I know what’s coming. Rifkin said, “In the great era of urbanization, we have shut off the human race from the rest of the natural world in the belief that we could conquer, colonize and utilize the riches of the planet to ensure our autonomy without dire consequences to us and future generations.”
Sorry, we can’t get away much longer with what we’re doing to this planet.
As I’ve said before and I repeat, we stand, like a proud whitetail buck, in the crosshairs of the most deadly moment of our country since the Civil War. If we continue on our population growth path, that next added 100 million people becomes our children’s “Human Katrina.”
It’s as if our citizens by their apathy and our politicians by their ignorance–beg for this country’s demise, its degradation and its collapse into the clutches of the nightmare of an added 100 million people.
If I could take you for a two week trip to Mexico City, Mexico; Shanghai, China; Bombay, India; Dacca, Bangladesh; Alexandria, Egypt—you would become sick to your stomach. You would be inspired to take action. You wouldn’t want your children to live what those people endure in their misery by the millions as they cling to life—every day of their lives.
The PBS journalist Bill Moyers asked the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, “What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?”
Asimov replied, “It will be completely destroyed. I use what I call the bathroom metaphor: if two people live in an apartment and there are two bathrooms, then both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want to stay as long as you like for whatever you need.
“But if you have twenty people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up times for each person; you have to bang on the door, “Aren’t you done yet?”
He concluded, “In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive. Convenience and decency can’t survive. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one person matters.”