The hu­man con­di­tion

What to do about run­away pop­u­la­tion growth? Here’s some good (and some ter­ri­ble) ideas…

Element - - Lifestyle - TE RADAR

Ire­cently heard an in­ter­view with a sci­en­tist who was hav­ing some suc­cess in his work on cur­ing the big­gest killer of hu­mans in the world: age­ing.

I was a lit­tle star­tled. I had never con­sid­ered age­ing a dis­ease, merely an in­evitabil­ity.

When asked if this was a par­tic­u­larly good idea in light of the loom­ing pop­u­la­tion cri­sis, he replied that as a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek he thought we could all sim­ply move to a new planet. Well. What glo­ri­ous op­ti­mism.

There are many who ar­gue that hu­man over­pop­u­la­tion is the most se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lem fac­ing the world. The statis­tics are quite stag­ger­ing.

It took us 200,000 years of be­ing hu­mans be­fore we reached the bil­lion mark around 1800. By the turn of the mil­len­nium, de­spite two world wars and sev­eral bad cases

“The Vol­un­tary Hu­man Ex­tinc­tion Move­ment be­lieves that the an­swer lies, as their name in­di­cates, in ex­tinc­tion.”

of the flu we num­bered six bil­lion. In the 13 years since we have added an­other bil­lion.

There are now more than seven bil­lion of us, and the lat­est UN re­port on pop­u­la­tion growth states that we could reach 11 bil­lion by 2100. Some es­ti­mates have it as high as 17 bil­lion. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, which may please retailers of fast mov­ing con­sumer goods and those who are cur­rently find­ing it dif­fi­cult to meet ‘the one’.

The prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with this mul­ti­tude in­cludes the ob­vi­ous ones such as food and wa­ter scarcity, the ex­tinc­tion of other species as we encroach upon their habi­tats or sim­ply eat them, lack of re­sources in gen­eral,

“You are a plague. And we are the cure.”

and sub­stan­tially more in-fill and up-fill hous­ing. Thank­fully there are peo­ple propos­ing pos­si­ble so­lu­tions. The Vol­un­tary Hu­man Ex­tinc­tion Move­ment be­lieves that the an­swer lies, as their name in­di­cates, in ex­tinc­tion. They should at the very least be given due credit for the vol­un­tary na­ture of the plan. Not for them snuff­ing out the liv­ing. They merely sug­gest we stop re­pro­duc­ing. Their slo­gan is “May we live long and die out”. It’s very catchy.

They are nowhere near as ex­treme as the Church of Eu­thana­sia, who de­scribed them­selves as a “non-profit ed­u­ca­tional foun­da­tion de­voted to restor­ing bal­ance be­tween hu­mans and the re­main­ing species on Earth”. While they aren’t ad­vo­cates of mur­der or forced ster­il­i­sa­tion, they do commend sui­cide, abor­tion, can­ni­bal­ism and non-pro­cre­ative sex.

Founder Chris Korda, a strict ve­gan, once sug­gested that can­ni­bal­ism was en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. “We have 60,000 auto-ac­ci­dent fa­tal­i­ties a year in the US,” she told one jour­nal­ist, be­fore sug­gest­ing that the meat should go to a well-known fast food out­let “where the food is al­ready so pro­cessed I don’t think any­body would no­tice the dif­fer­ence.”

For­tu­nately pop­u­la­tion de­cline is al­ready un­der­way in some coun­tries. But in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, and es­pe­cially in Africa where the pop­u­la­tion is pre­dicted to ex­plode, there are more re­al­is­tic so­lu­tions to slow growth.

Ed­u­cat­ing and em­pow­er­ing women works. So too, iron­i­cally, does re­duc­ing in­fant mor­tal­ity, and thus the need to have mul­ti­ple chil­dren to com­pen­sate for the fact that not all will make it to adult­hood.

But there re­mains among many a be­lief best summed up by Agent Smith, the an­thro­po­mor­phised face of the sen­tient com­puter in The Ma­trix. He said, “Hu­man be­ings are a dis­ease, a can­cer of this planet. You are a plague. And we are the cure.” The cor­rect re­sponse should have been “Shut up com­puter, or I’ll un­plug you.” But I guess that wouldn’t have made a very good movie.

On a more pos­i­tive note, with peo­ple liv­ing longer, and more peo­ple in gen­eral, we may ad­vance science and tech­nol­ogy faster, as there will be ex­po­nen­tially more brains fo­cused on the prob­lems. Maybe we will get to that new planet in time.

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