Hindsight is golden – no question about that. All through the recent election season I pondered what the right question was to ask legislators and, of course, it hit me days after the election: “Do you think population and economic growth can continue forever and, if not, what do you think will happen when the trend reverses?” This and similar questions should be at the top of everyone’s list, not just today but every day for decades to come.
Growth of any physical kind cannot continue forever. The planet has a certain amount of land area and no more, and the same for sea water, fresh water, oil, natural gas, and coal. We are using these resources up (or polluting them) at ever faster rates, and conservation efforts have had only a small slowing effect at best. We need to change the national and international topic of discussion so that this question gets asked of every government official and anyone else in a position of economic or social influence, and often.
It is up to us to change the topic. We who are aware of the huge population mountain we are climbing, and concerned about the “cliffs” we could be stepping off of on the return descent back to sustainability, must change the topic of discussion everywhere as quickly as possible. Until everyone starts thinking about the problems we are generating for ourselves, and with which we will need to start coping during the next few decades, we will have a very limited ability to forestall the problems of famine and epidemic likely to hit us when oil is too expensive to use for transportation and natural gas is much more expensive than today, but still necessary to heat our homes and till the fields.
Keep asking the right questions at every opportunity. So far the media has only talked about politics and anything sensational enough to arouse the viewers. Overpopulation (and resulting energy/food shortages, famine, etc.) is not a sexy topic, and the media are scared to death of bringing it up, probably expecting a storm of protest from right-wing religious groups. Still, the longer we wait to start talking seriously about this problem – the biggest one humanity has ever faced – the worse life will be for our children, grandchildren and descendants over the next century or two. Let’s protect them to the best of our abilities by asking the tough questions and asking them often in public forums, since it appears that until we force the issue no public figures or news organizations are going to touch this topic with a ten foot pole. Please keep this question in the forefront of your mind and pass it on to others in any way possible. The topics of public conversation now in play are not helping us avoid disaster, and some are making the potential for disasters worse.
Thanks for reading – as always I welcome your comments — Tim