Awareness of humanity’s biggest problems is rising. While there appears to finally be a slow groundswell of popular understanding and alarm about what humans are doing to the planet (which is quite late but very good), there is still a lot of mishandling (and often misrepresentation) of the news. This results in persistent widespread misconceptions about our position and probable future on the planet. So what kinds of things are we “not getting”?
Recycling and conservation will not save us. As a “for instance”, we are not going to save ourselves from global disaster through recycling and conservation. Recycling and conservation may buy us time to work towards sustainability, but if we fail to do that the extra time only allows human numbers to reach an even higher peak before our infrastructure, food, and political systems experience increasingly catastrophic failures.
Technology will not save us. For many years a lot of people, myself included, thought we could invent fusion power sources that would enable us to feed our exploding numbers and continue to build and improve our civilization further. While a major breakthrough such as cheap fusion power would buy us time, it also carries the risk that it may decrease the need for us to understand the fundamental facts of our situation: that population numbers are absolute, and every new mouth must be fed, housed, educated, and made useful to society if possible, and all those needs increase the burden and risk we experience as a species and as a global ecology. Of course, there is little probability of fusion power being cheap since those corporations that control the technology will price it as high as the market will bear, and if it is “saving our butts” and preventing famine, for example, the demand will drive the price to astronomical heights. In supply and demand terms, the price at which the maximum quantity might be manufactured and sold is a long way from the much higher price that maximizes the profits of those few corporations. Today that is already the major factor slowing the implementation of most new technologies.
Neither praying nor political infighting will save us. Politics and religion will get in the way of our achieving a sustainable situation. Established corporations have long supported conservative political and religious groups, largely because they have proven to be easy to manipulate into positions that favor corporate profits. There are exceptions, of course, such as the so-called right to life movement, which few corporate interests apparently see as useful, but less-educated groups have typically been easiest to scare and thereby control for corporate benefit. Corporate-supported conservative political institutions and dissociated groups such as climate change deniers have significant short-term value to corporations, mostly in their ability to help block or de-fund regulation, and inevitably hinder progress towards sustainability. Religions that emphasize faith over thinking condition their followers to be gullible and susceptible to political and economic manipulation, and often work against education that would provide badly needed brain power. Single issue conservative groups such as gun owners skew their followers’ thinking towards their area of concern and discourage critical thinking and independent action, essentially keeping “blinders” on their supporters. Often such groups are clearly dominated by a single industry group such as the gun industry, who will actively support any group that works for policies that increase their profits.
These are just a few changes I am watching, combined with my thinking on how they will affect our long-term future. The world, like every one of us, is an unfathomably complicated place facing rapidly increasing risk of global and large-scale catastrophes that will probably include the breakdown of our infrastructure and food systems, famine (in the third world first), major global epidemics, and the relative exhaustion of our natural resources. (We won’t run out of petroleum but it will seem like it when it costs $20 for a half ounce can of 3-in-1 oil.) These problems are driven at their roots by simple population growth and the natural human desire to live as well as possible. Our numbers are already far above a sustainable level and a global birth rate persists that will see the population quadruple in my short lifetime. THAT is the fundamental issue which, sad to say, our media, politicians, and corporate interests are mostly ignoring or too afraid to mention. The things that ARE being discussed, such as conservation and technological innovation, are double-edged swords that may soften the huge adjustments (die-off’s?) that must occur during the rest of this century or may serve to hide the fundamental issues and set us up for worse catastrophes than we can now imagine. Only time will tell, but good luck to us all. I urge everyone to learn more and work to not just conserve resources, but to increase the public consciousness that birth rate and total population are the fundamental issues behind most current world problems. We have to recognize and understand our problems clearly if we are to start making any headway on reducing our birth rate and softening the inevitable collapse to come within the next thirty to fifty years.
Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome. — Tim