What must we do to help humanity survive and thrive? What has worked for living things for the last four billion years was to reproduce maximally to fill in every possible niche where survival was possible and then reproduce there. The situations were different and naturally changeable so slight variations among living things sometimes gave them an advantage and they survived better, soon filled the livable niches, and the same struggle went on with their offspring with new players. That’s evolution in brief.
With humans, a natural population for our size of animal was about a hundred thousand to three hundred thousand or more, as that is the estimated population of chimpanzees today, although their numbers are dwindling because of habitat loss and other factors. But, because of our technology, we are approaching eight billion, which is roughly twenty-six thousand times bigger than our cousin chimps’ population. If we revert to hunter-gatherers on a healthy Earth our population would drop back toward that vastly smaller number. I would prefer a more vibrant human population with an advanced society, but one that is in a more permanently sustainable balance with our coming situation.
The big problem is the exhaustion of fossil fuels and a coming dependence on solar cells and wind as our source of electrical and mechanical energy. A large portion of that new source of energy in the future must be used to create our food with farm equipment and ship it to us. Also, at present, some two percent of our fossil fuel energy is being used to create fertilizer for our food crops. Without fertilizer crops don’t grow well and produce edible food. From the graphic below from Livermore National Labs it is obvious that sustainable solar and wind energy is a tiny part of our energy supply.
These figures from a trustworthy source are ten years old, but the point is obvious: the fossil fuels totally dominate our current energy supply. What isn’t obvious is that they are a limited source of energy that will be consumed and exhausted at some point in the not distant future.
At present, while those energy sources are still available, many of them could be used to build the soon-to-be-essential supply of solar cells. Because that is where the energy for feeding the human population will come from, and it will probably become a choke point because of lack of foresight. There are vast areas of what is called wasteland because it can’t be farmed for food, but it can be used for solar energy collection, and that can be used to power the various forms of food-creation equipment that presently use fossil fuels.
For humanity to survive it must have food, and for it to thrive it must have abundant and reliable food and that means solar-dependent energy supplies.