Are we reaching the practical limits of our intelligence as a species? Looking around at our world it seems obvious that we are making huge problems for ourselves by growing faster and more numerous than our environment can sustain. Politically and economically we appear to be functioning more and more in a “thrashing” mode, where our actions are not well-considered or coördinated, the outcomes fail to reflect lasting or meaningful improvements, and we fail to reduce the risks of big problems that are becoming more obvious every day. It seems we need to become smarter about ourselves and our world, and take a more realistic view of our global problems. But what factors are preventing us from doing this, and what improved understanding must we gain to make improvements? We can’t all be experts, but in the United States we all can vote and need to do so intelligently to ensure our leaders are capable of solving the big problems we face. Can we learn and change our thinking and voting in time to avoid ever larger problems in the future? Continue reading
Tag Archives: population explosion
Will the global economy improve for the average person? Or are we sinking into an age in which workers are more and more powerless before their corporate employers and 99% of us live as serfs, forced into poverty and submission to our corporate overlords? Almost everyone agrees that corporations have far too much influence on government, laws, and our lives today. This situation has evolved slowly, but today corporations, aided by corporate-dominated government, are pushing harder than ever to take control of our lives and economies, purely for profit. As a result, the direction of most economies is towards businesses increasing control of government and a decline in the power of the individual. This suggests political and economic turmoil could increase as unscrupulous corporations skew economies for profit and people react and organize to oppose them, but that it is unlikely the situation will get better. The big issues we all face, like the population explosion and dependence on fossil fuels, will continue to be mostly ignored, though some portions of the population understand and will fight back to keep their rights and protect society, with limited effect. So where might we be in a few decades, and how likely is it that change could favor the people?
As recently as 50 years ago it was common for American families to have gardens and can or freeze what they produced. Many people also waited for seasonal produce sales to stock up, canning or freezing the surplus food for consumption over the following year. In addition, many people had root cellars where they could store apples, potatoes, onions, and many other food items for months at a time including over the winter. Interruptions in the shipments of food into an area were troublesome, but not a serious problem because most people had stores of food they could subsist on for weeks or even months if necessary. Times have changed significantly, however, and the majority of people today not only do not can or preserve food, but don’t even know how to do this. The food in most homes would last for days or weeks at most, not weeks or months as in the past, suggesting the average person’s ability to survive in a food shortage is greatly reduced. Why has this happened? Continue reading
Earth, the Operator’s Manual is a new video program (also available on the PBS website) that gives the best synopsis of the global condition, specifically on trends in population and energy usage. It provides a long-term view of the future and how we may avoid the hard times most of us expect as population peaks and fossil fuel supplies become more scarce and expensive. I hope to write more about it when I get time, but please take a look at this interesting and informative video series.
As always, I welcome your comments. Thanks for your attention to our future. — Tim
Falling birthrates a problem? Someone has lost their sense of perspective. NY Times op-ed columnist David Brooks’ recent piece “The Fertility Implosion” cites falling birth rates in many countries and discusses the difficulties faced by societies in which elderly will significantly outnumber young people. Certainly there will be challenges. While in the US the Social Security program (SS) is expected to continue another 25 years, with relatively small changes needed to change that time to “indefinite”, and most developed countries have better systems for caring for the elderly than the US does, there is still much concern for how the young people are going to foot the bill for those older than them. But how does this stack up against the effects of the current population explosion itself? Continue reading
The US military may be starting to awaken to the realities of the population explosion. Reading the March 9th, 2012 edition of the NDIA (National Defense Industry Association) newsletter I came across an article titled “Panetta Makes It Official: Military Must Become Greener” that gives some insight into the growing concern in the Pentagon about energy supplies for the military. The article mentions a six-year DOD (Department of Defense) initiative aimed at reducing fuel and energy consumption in all areas of the United States military, and it cites some interesting numbers:
– More than 400 forward bases in Afghanistan currently consume between 250 and 7500 gallons of fuel each every day, depending on their size
– Large military bases consume around 50,000 gallons of fuel per day
– The U.S. military consumes 50 million gallons of fuel per month in Afghanistan
– The military just purchased 450,000 gallons of biofuels for testing, its largest purchase of biofuels ever
– The U.S. military consumes less than 2% of the nation’s fuel supply
All of this got me thinking about all the facilities and equipment using that fuel. 50 million gallons per month is a staggering amount. What will happen when money and fuel run short as the population peaks (with attendant economic upheavals), and begins to decline, which could occur as soon as 2040? Continue reading
We invented our way into this situation. Many of our past inventions made life easier, food more plentiful, etc., and enabled population growth. When anything threatened to kill us off, we fought it with creativity and developed technologies to deal with it. Except for those inventions specifically aimed at killing people or managing our birthrates (the Chinese “One Child Law“, for example), our inventions have permitted us to thrive and propagate more and more effectively, and to increase our numbers at faster and faster rates. The problem we perceive now is that sooner or later the needs of our unchecked population will exceed available resources. This would seem a normal pattern for any life form, but there are plenty of examples where animal birthrates slowed inexplicably in the face of food shortages. That makes it seem that humans have lost the instinct for avoiding population-driven catastrophes, which leaves our fate up to us. So just how smart are we? Continue reading