Population explosion and nuclear weapons are a fact. Both of these are based on the human success of technically exploiting what nature has provided. The original total human population was thought to have been about 6 thousand people for perhaps a half a million years but now it is 6.8 billion people. In the last hundred years we have grown to that prodigious number from well under 2 billion. We now have a million people currently living for every one that lived during our genetically formative period. The environment suffers from our multitudes not from our individual behavior, and if there were still only 6,000 of us living an extravagant modern lifestyle everything would be just fine. But, the last time the atmospheric CO2 (the best current measure of our global impact) was in balance with our effluvium was before we started mining coal and oil, about the year 1825 when we were mostly farmers.
Population growth is not slowing down, and even the lowest estimates for total population numbers are explosive compared to the year 1900. Total growth now is about 75 million per year which is 10,000 times the total ancient population—that’s the increase in population not just the total number. Things are very good for population growth at the moment, and that is why the population is growing, but because we are mining the limited resources and are exceeding the capacity of the Earth to recycle pollution, the end of our huge population is in sight. When that end comes it will seem sudden and unexpected by most people. The end could be brought on by many possible natural causes or it could be failings of human judgment, and a major war. But the one obvious and inescapable problem is that there will be a shortfall of some essential item brought on by the population overshoot of the carrying capacity of the planet.
With the ancient population of 6,000 behaving in the worst possible ways which were available to them it would not have hurt the sustainability of the planet, but now with 6 billion people behaving in the most careful ways there is no possibility of not consuming everything that makes the Earth sustainable. A hundred years or so is the maximum humanity will survive at our population level, and that is within the potential lifetimes of children now living. People talk about worrying about their children and grandchildren, but if you are young you should be worrying about your own survival.
Those problems are crashing in upon us even without A-bombs. But, we have some 30,000 of those bombs assembled, and ready to explode. And what is worse more coming into existence every day. As I said, things are very good right now, but what is going to happen when something vital to our continued existence comes into seriously short supply? Everyone who hasn’t gone off on daffy smoke with all of the abundance we currently have can see that there will be serious conflict. The current economic debacle which is totally a social problem, and not ecological supply problem may trigger something even worse. There have been many deadly conflicts in human history over sillier things, for example, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” sort of non-problem. But, when there are real shortfalls on the things that are essential to life such as water, oil, food, land and clean air, there will be deadly conflicts. There is a limited supply of these necessities, and only those people who are willfully blind to this obviousness will deny it. It is because 6.8 billion people continue to believe something which obviously isn’t so, things will continue as they have toward catastrophe? People will continue as they are because they have some vested interest in believing the optimistic dream, and because the alternative to business as usual is demanding and too threatening. They continue as they have done because it worked for them in the past, and therefore they hope and expect it will work for them in the future. But the world won’t continue the way it has because it can’t sustain the huge population.
When the 30,000 H-bombs, that are presently available, are exploded there will be extermination of life in all of the northern hemisphere, and much of the southern as well. However, New Zealand is as remote from the bombing, the fallout and the nuclear winter as it is possible to be so if anyplace will survive approximately intact it will be New Zealand and perhaps southern Argentina on a more limited scale. It is in these places that an Earth Ark might be founded and upon which many of the plants and animals from the Northern Hemisphere might be saved. If there is no effort to create an Earth Ark then the after the Doomsday events the planet will be repopulated by whatever happened to be residing there, and randomly survived. Thus the Coeval period after Doomsday would be one repopulated by marsupials and the few domestic mammal species that happen to be residing there in New Zealand.
Even after the Doomsday all of the bombs will not have been exploded and bandits with the remaining bombs, but no country to go back to will go to New Zealand and try and capture it. Unfortunately, there may be hundreds even thousands of these weapons in the hands of stateless bandits, and in the end New Zealand may be fought over viciously. Because of that after Doomsday conflict it may be necessary to fall back upon the Lifehaven Project which is to locate a few small bands of a thousand or fewer people on remote southern islands in homes which could serve as fallout shelters with over a year’s supply of food, and a vast supply of every imaginable seed and a zoo of small animals with which to repopulate the Earth. However, even that will fail because these locations will be known to the bandits, and with their supply of modern weapons they will be able to capture these sites, and loot them for their own personal short term survival needs.
The most extreme fall back position for humanity, and a last gasp at reconstituting human society, is that of the Gene Barrel Solution sprinkled throughout remote places in Antarctica where they would naturally stay very cold. These would be single barrels with an extremely wide variety of seeds, and animal sperm and eggs if possible, and technical information placed in remote places. They would have great value as a gene store, but none as a direct food source because of their smallness and remote locations so it would cost more caloric effort to get to them than the energy the recovery team could get by eating them. So there would be no reason to go to these remote places except to recover the seeds for the purpose of replanting a foundation seed nursery. This would imply that there were survivors back in the temperate world, but that biological diversity had been destroyed, and they needed to be restarted. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has the right idea of storing seeds in a remote and cold location, but it isn’t remote enough, and worst of all it is located practically in a potential Doomsday H-bomb crater because it is next to the only airport on the bombing routes across the North Pole. A few hours after a war started that exact location will be crowded with military aircraft from all over the world and be a prime target. The best thing to do with the seeds in Svalbard is to repack them into radiation proofed barrels, and sprinkle them around Antarctica into remote but known and findable locations.
These recovery plans, Earth Ark, The Lifehaven Project and The Gene Barrel Solution are dismal in the extreme, but they do offer a tiny glimmer of hope for the future of humanity. They hope to recover a small part of that which we are presently destroying. If we can’t even put a single barrel of seeds into the high Antarctic for the future of humanity we will deprive them of any chance of the life we take for granted. Those future people will rightly curse our present heroes who brought us these problems, and revel in their glory, but they will also curse those of us who refuse to help limit the catastrophe with even a mustard seed of forethought and preparation for the future.