ALRIGHT, NO ONE panic but Earth has a “people problem.”
This according to Bill Nye as outlined in an episode of his Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World.” Since he is the “Science Guy” we should probably take him seriously.
Whether it be food or water, people have a nasty habit of consuming finite resources. Anyone who has ever had house guests can attest to that. There is also the unfortunate truth that not all of the Earth is hospitable to human life. Not many of us would want to live out our days in Antarctica or the middle of the Sahara desert – or in Toledo.
Humans are a responsive species so we do find ways to adapt and survive. We are finding ways to grow more food with less land and exploring renewable sources of energy. But it is a mathematical certainty that eventually the sheer number of people will overwhelm any response we might make or innovation we can devise to sustain ourselves.
According to Bill Nye, the population problem is not just about babies and your neighbours having too many of them. No, it is also about grandma and the advances in medical science that have made it possible for people to live longer lives.
Increasing numbers of countries around the world will soon have to face the reality of the old outnumbering the young. That demographic nightmare begs the question of just how will an increasingly elderly bubble of people outside the workforce be provided for by the proportionally shrinking numbers of young entering the workforce.
Governments cannot conjure money from thin air. They rely on a tax base that allows for equitable distribution of social services to all those in need. But what happens when “those in need” overwhelm the available programs designed to ensure that basic requirements are met?
Eventually the sheer number of people on earth will overwhelm any of our attempts to sustain ourselves
Add into the mix the issue of mass and sudden migration – coupled with our own deleterious impact on the environment – and one can quickly see that the problem of dwindling resources is a serious one. To put it in terms that are relatable to non-science guys like myself, think of it as the “Pepperoni Pizza Principle.”
Let me don my white lab coat and explain: If four college roommates order two large pepperoni pizzas then we can safely assume that all four will be satisfied with their share of the pizza and will likely carry on living in harmony within the walls of their dorm.
However, what if we now add forty roommates forced to share the same two pizzas and it quickly becomes apparent that in short order people are going to be killing each other over a single pepperoni – not a pizza slice, mind you – but over one single, solitary round piece of pepperoni.
Oh, the horror.
Any suggestion that people procreate less begs the question of exactly which people are we talking about? We probably don’t consider our own darling offspring as the problem but consider other’s people evil spawn as the real bugaboo.
Any suggestion of population control leads to a host of social, cultural and religious minefields that few leaders in democracies would ever want to take on. We are nowhere near seeing a Canadian prime minister or American president putting “Only two kids for you!” on a T-shirt as a catchy campaign slogan.
Super-brain Stephen Hawking has now joined the chorus of those who stand on street corners with cardboard signs warning that the world will end at 10:00pm – (10:30 in Newfoundland). In a BBC documentary to be aired this summer, he has drastically revised his estimate downwards of how long we can survive on this planet from a more than comfy 1,000 years to a mere century.
Yes, the smartest man on Earth now believes we have less than 100 years of usable life left on this planet and will become extinct as a species if we do not find another planet to colonize within that time frame.
Okay, now everyone can panic.
Gavin MacFadyen is a U.S based writer and occasional lawyer.
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