In the popular British magazine How It Works, Dr George McGavin of Oxford University is interviewed. The article is about the world’s ecology, more specifically about insects and to some extent about humans and their impact on the world. The following quote is about population, a subject popular with biologists.
There are some great individual efforts currently being undertaken in world conservation, however what we have to do is not worry about single species preservation but saving natural habitat on a large scale. If we do that then you save everything. In fact if you save insects, you save everything else. I think it has to be from the grassroots up, so saving the panda is fine but by saving the entire habitat you save them and everything else as well. Of course that is something that we can’t seem to do at the moment as there is a great big elephant in the room, which all governments and politicians won’t even talk about, and that is the rapidly increasing human population. There are now 6.8 billion of us and rising. Of course it’s not that we are bad or evil, just that our impact is so enormous. I mean when I was born only 56 years ago there were only 2.4 billion of us, so just in the time I have been breathing that number has almost tripled, and all those people need education, homes, land and food. That is the real problem and it is an intractable issue, I think, as everybody wants to have children. It is just like a bacterial colony on an agar plate – everything is fine for a long time but eventually expediential [sic] growth will cause the colony to reach the edge of the dish and all hell breaks loose. We are exactly the same, it is just a bigger agar plate. HIW: What realistically can be done then in your opinion? GM: Ha ha! If I new [sic] that I’d be head of the UN! A VIP! Seriously though, I think the best thing we can do is have one or two children. What we should keep in mind though is that we see the world through an incredibly small window in time. We have been here for such a short period in terms of geological time and after we have gone other species will exist and continue to do so. Insects, for example, have been around for 4 million years [sic]and will be so long after we are gone.
This was obviously a tape recorded conversation because in this quote there are several egregious errors which an Oxford don would never make. I have underlined them in the text. The weird term expediential growth was surely spoken as exponential growth, and new was clearly knew which the spell checker missed, and 4 million years was clearly intended to be 400 million years. Perhaps those errors are easily overlooked and I wouldn’t have commented upon them, except that they are at the core of my arguments for the necessity of The EarthArk Project.
Exponential growth of living species is natural when conditions are normal, and we were in balance with the Earth up until 1825, when the human use of burning fossil fuels could no longer be accommodated by our Earth’s CO2 digestion system. Since that time our population has gone from one billion to seven billion people and now the Earth isn’t even coming close to containing our pollution. Our pollution is now accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans and is beginning to create havoc, like melting the glaciers away toward non-existence. Billions of people depend upon glacial melt-water to sustain their food crops. When the water is gone the people will starve to death and will be gone too. We are presently living in a wonderful world built upon one-time use resources the Earth is providing. These one-time use things include oil, coal, water, and many other things, but even recyclable metals like copper will be consumed away with a few recyclings, and when they become permanently in short supply the population of people dependent upon them must decline too.
George McGavin recognizes these problems and he has the very long view of life processes. The life of the class insects is approximately ~400,000,000 years age. That number was no doubt misquoted as 4,000,000 years in the article, “but what’s a couple of zeros to a magazine journalist?” With his longer view he realizes that humans are a recent species ~40,000 years and our human written history is very short ~4,000 years and our personal consciousness ~40 years, but very unfortunately our political consciousness seems to be the next election, or about 4 years. All of those zeros really do mean something important and with the usual short view seen by the public and the politicians the population explosion isn’t visible to humans. So, their political representatives and media refuse to address it. Therefore, because of this institutional shortsightedness modern humanity is on a collision course with a population collapse created by unconstrained exponential growth.
McGavin throws up his hands in despair at how to cope with the coming population problem, but it isn’t impossible, and the largest country in the world, China, does have a population policy, and it has permitted their responsible politicians to contain their population growth and replace it with astonishingly rapid economic growth. Until the entire human population has a similar policy which contains the population to an Earth sustainable number, at whatever the technology permits, we as a top predator type species are condemned to fight to the death our fellow species members for food and the other necessities of life.
The problem is how to convince politicians that population must be stabilized. Unfortunately, as McGavin mentions, it is a subject forbidden for politicians to even discuss. Because the CO2 to melt the glaciers is already in the atmosphere the billions of people dependent upon that water are doomed to lose their food supply. When that starts happening everyone will see the clouds of Doomsday blowing, but it will be too late to prevent catastrophe.
Some people, myself included, have been thinking Doomsday began with the explosion of the first atomic bomb on July 18, 1945. Or perhaps with Roosevelt’s signing of documents which began the Manhattan Project to create those bombs on December 7th, 1941, a few hours before Pearl Harbor was attacked. But now I am thinking that perhaps Doomsday really began with James Watt’s creation of a really successful steam engine. All of those things might have been inevitable, given the intelligence and creativity of human beings, and thus the real beginning of Doomsday was when the first woman first spoke to another saying umm, about some guy at a party they were attending. That act set humans on the path to creating language and all of the qualities which we humans have which the other creatures don’t have. In any of these views –
Humanity has been living in Doomsday for a long time, and it has been fun.