In Winston Churchill’s epic A History of the English Speaking Peoples, the story begins with the image of Julius Caesar gazing covetously across the English Channel. One hundred thousand people: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They lived in a big world, a world bigger than their world, surrounded by an ocean brimming with fish and bountiful harvests. The sky’s the limit until you run out of sky; there’s plenty for everyone, until there’s not. Today the area holds nearly seventy million humans.
We appear to be nearing the short end of the funnel. In one hundred and fifteen years the automotive population of the United States has risen from 35,000 to 255 million; one billion gas burning cars world-wide, pretending… pretending that this number is sustainable or unimportant. Believing by forgetting, that humanity can continue in this folly. An Ozzie & Harriet approach, believing the future will solve itself. Technology will save us; only technology is heartless and without conscience or pity. Technology in a capitalist system means watching the NBA on your mobile device, candy bars as culture, first rate medical care you can’t afford and fifty shades of porn.
On the day that men left for the moon a TV commentator said, “Three and a half billion people on planet Earth are watching.” Today, it’s over seven billion and fifty years from today, will the available number of jobs double, will our resources expand indefinitely? What’s our plan here? What exactly are those in leadership positions prepared to do to alleviate this threatening overpopulation?
According to Global-Change.Org, which mirrors the UN findings from 2006, the world’s oceans are being fished from pole to pole. One third of the human race is dependent upon the oceans for food each day. The human population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and the ocean’s harvest will be beyond sustainable capacity. Because of the decline in popular fish stocks, prices rise, whetting the capitalist appetite for more and bigger boats, dragging the bottom with nets five miles long to get more of the take, more efficiently, living a termite mantra of price-accelerating desire and desire-accelerating price, right down into a grave.
Twenty-one centuries into the modern era and few openly ask with existential weight, what are we going to do? Should we begin building rocket planes to colonize other planets? How should we manage dwindling resources brought on by over population? What good is a 25 or 30 percent carbon reduction when the population is expected to rise by 40 percent every ten years? What will life on Earth mean when the Amazon is a picnic area or Africa is a theme park? Some glacial ice for our cocktails perhaps, carving electronic moai as monuments to our collective wisdom.
Resource wars on Planet Easter Island: it doesn’t matter how many iPods the factory can produce if the workers can’t afford to eat; China and Japan saber rattling over an uninhabitable outcropping of rocks called islands because you can’t call them anything else to claim fishing rights. Pirate fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry; corporations without addresses sailing ships without flags anywhere governments are weak and the catch is good. A planet of allegedly intelligent beings unable to agree and to enforce an agreement: “To not fish the world’s oceans to collapse!”
It is hard to imagine a planet facing a crisis as catastrophic as a meteor strike unable even to agree on the symptoms. Climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels and every one of those seven billion people want a light bulb, a TV and a car! They want a nice house, a highway, a school and good health care. There isn’t anything wrong with those aspirations, only there just aren’t seven billion of them or even five billion and there never will be. Automation, computerization and neoliberal policy mean jobs will go wherever the wages are lowest, wherever regulation is the weakest — this is the plan. To just keep going along as we’re doing, letting each individual nation plan its own population goal, because every baby born is a potential soldier and a new customer.
It isn’t an argument for eugenics; it isn’t based on morals or ethics, but on simple mathematics. No matter how smart or clever we are, no amount of cleverness will feed 9 billion people and if it could… could it feed ten billion? It’s not about race or hatred, it’s about kidding ourselves. Eating from the children’s lunch box, burning the forecastle to go a bit faster. Raised a child of the bomb, I lived with duck-n-cover drills and the possibility of what if? Humanity shackled by greed, silenced by gods and drugged with capitalism faces inevitability sounding her evolutionary retreat. We’re bigger people now; we’ve got the world in our pocket. The sky’s the limit — until you run out of sky; there’s plenty for everyone — until there’s not.
“Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over” – Mark Twain
About the author: David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, “The Servants of Pilate.”